Tag Archives: Colin Farrell

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

“Yorgos Lanthimos’ psychological thriller is something of a fable, rich with metaphors and mythological parallels.”

Wayward Wolf.

For those of you that have seen Yorgos Lanthimos’ previous outing, The Lobster, the rather eery stylistic approach of his latest piece, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, will be all too familiar.

With unnaturally stilted delivery and distracted, truncated conversations, the characters go about their roles in the most ‘wooden’ manner that you could possibly imagine.

Of course, that’s actually all part of the set-up here, and considering Lanthimos’ film boasts the likes of Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell among its number, it’s highly unlikely that any such wooden aspersions could possibly relate to the actual acting ability of the excellent cast. But it certainly all makes for another odd, yet intriguing outing from the Lanthimos stable – one which takes care to examine such themes as guilt and responsibility, as well as the biblical concept of an eye for an eye.

Top surgeon, Stephen Murphy (Farrell), carries with him a terrible burden. A botched surgery some years earlier – whilst apparently under the influence of alcohol – had resulted in the unfortunate death of a man. With a wife and two lovely children to support, it’s important that Stephen does not allow the burdens of his past to drag him down and dictate his life. Yet every so often the guilt seems to eat him up. These pangs of remorse always seem to coincide with the frequent occasions that he spends in the company of a teenage boy, Martin (Barry Keoghan). Whilst it initially appears that Stephen may have taken the boy under his wing, adopting some kind of career mentor role, the truth, and rather unnerving reason for Martin’s virtual omnipresence in Stephen’s life gradually becomes apparent, and increasingly, by way of some rather strange and sinister goings on, it leaves the beleaguered surgeon to deal with a classic case of Hobson’s choice.

Whatever you might make of Lanthimos’ film – and the response that I’ve encountered has been varied – there’s no doubting that thanks to its unusual direction, a warped (in a good way) sense of fun, characters bordering on the robotic, and all-round levels of disturbing oddity, The Killing of a Sacred Deer effortlessly burns its way into the old grey matter, and stays there.

Arguably most memorable of all though is the film’s stunning cinematography; superbly strong enduring visual imagery that can probably best be described as minimal meets clinical. Scenes shot within the confines of the hospital walls are particularly visually arresting, making strong use of a restrictive almost monochrome palette, and little or no room is given to the relative comfort and reassuring warmth that bold colours would bring.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ psychological thriller is something of a fable, rich with metaphors and mythological parallels. A truly dystopian vision that devilishly pokes at our most deep-seated fears, and straddles the divide between dark, inappropriately jocular, and absurdly disturbing.

Above everything though, The Killing of a Sacred Deer offers a stark reminder that ‘true happiness’ is only ever a temporary state of events, and that we’re all never more than a brief moment of misfortune or negligence from having it, and everything that it represents, come crashing down around us.

In this case, the ultimate, self-inflicted souring of the American dream.

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THE BEGUILED

“Elle Fanning… delights with a performance of scheming flirtatiousness. Given the circumstances, it’s a catalyst for disaster.”

Wayward Wolf.

 

Director Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is a simple tale based upon Thomas Cullinan’s novel, set during the American Civil War, deep in the Confederate state of Virginia.

A young girl, Amy (Oona Laurence), is out picking mushrooms in the forest when she stumbles upon a fallen Union soldier, Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell). Wounded by a gun shot to his leg, he is fast bleeding to death. The kindhearted Amy helps him to a ladies’ seminary where he can receive treatment and convalesce.

This seminary is also Amy’s home which she shares with four other young girls of varying ages, all of whom are tutored by their live-in teachers, Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), and her assistant Edwina (Kirsten Dunst).

Whilst the unremitting sound of gun shots rumbles away somewhere in the distance, Miss Martha and Edwina do their best to ensure that some semblance of civilised normality is maintained at this well-to-do school, priding themselves upon producing well-mannered, well-educated young southern ladies.

Being also a school of deep-rooted Christian values presents Miss Martha with something of a dilemma. Should they now turn the Corporal in to the Confederate forces, or wait at least until he is fully recovered from his injuries?

The decision is made, but given the potentially problematic nature of this predicament, it could very easily be one that they will all live to regret.

McBurney’s wartime allegiances of course contravene the ‘values’ expected of a good Confederate household, but it’s simply his manly presence here that is unquestionably the cause of the competitiveness, jealousy and ultimately betrayal that soon develops between the ladies of the house.

It doesn’t help that McBurney in some ways encourages the situation. Fully aware that he is the only, and therefore Alpha male here, he begins to revel in his increasingly powerful status.

The Beguiled is a slow-burning yet expertly-paced affair, not to mention a fascinatingly taut experience from start to finish. A film of tightly bound layers poised to unravel spectacularly at any moment.

Developing moral and sexual tensions simmer away, guards are gradually lowered, alcohol flows, and it’s only a matter of time before lines are crossed and the pot well and truly boils over.

Farrell is excellent portraying a man mindful to remain sufficiently polite and charming in the face of the welcome steady encroachment of female interest – all the while, wary that he may still be turned in to the authorities at any moment.

Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Miss Martha is one of authoritative decorum, whilst Kirsten Dunst produces a nuanced performance of repressed longing. Elle Fanning (Alicia), on the other hand, delights with a performance of scheming flirtatiousness. Given the circumstances, it’s a catalyst for disaster.

Philippe Le Sourd’s cinematography is refreshingly conservative in its execution, but no less beautiful for this. An abundance of static shots and an almost ethereal use of light and delicate textures captures wonderfully the very essence of the hot and sticky natural beauty of the southern location.

Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is darkly humorous on occasion, thoroughly entertaining and ever so seductive – almost beguiling one might say.

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: The Lobster

The Lobster is a love story. Kind of.

Perhaps not the kind you and I would be particularly familiar with, but even so, an against all odds tale of devotion, played out with a comical awkwardness, bordering on the uncomfortable.

The film portrays a society in which coupledom is the natural order of things and where being single, no matter the circumstances, is not only discouraged by society but infact considered a crime; grounds for arrest and rehabilitation.

No conventional love stories are going to blossom in such an environment.

David (Colin Farrell) is single having split from his girlfriend of twelve years and is consequently whisked away, together with his dog (his brother – all will be explained), by the authorities, to an idyllic hotel retreat in the countryside where he will join a number of other singles in seeing out a 45 day period in which each must ‘find love’ or suffer the ignominy of being turned into an animal, (of their own choosing).

Each prisoner (for that is what they are in essence), can increase the length of their stay at the hotel , accumulating credits (additional days) by being successful in the daily man-hunt, a procedure in which loners who lurk in the nearby woods – ostracized from society, are tracked down, sedated by way of a tranquiliser dart and brought back to the hotel where they too shall begin a 45 day stint of their own, if lucky…

There’s an essence of Big Brother that pervades throughout The Lobster and it’s hard to know whether it’s this fear of authority that has resulted in the array of social misfits that seem to populate Director Yorgos Lanthimos’s world, or whether this is just the natural way of things.

Whether it be the lisping inadequacies of John C Reilly’s character, the coniving, stoney-faced delivery of the limping man (Ben Whishaw), or the cold-hearted psychopathic tendencies of the heartless woman (Angeliki Papoulia), David is undoubtedly surrounded by similarly dysfunctional folk that, it has to be said, would probably benefit more from being turned into dogs, ponies or whichever species they have resigned themselves to being, than continuing their droid like existences as ‘humans’.

It’s only when finally seizing an opportunity to run away, hiding out with Lea Seydoux’s gang of loners in the woods, (a group as militant in their staunch defence of all things single, as their polar opposites are of ‘togetherness’ in the hotel), that David finally has a chance to discover love with the short sighted woman, (Rachel Weisz). However, this being The Lobster , naturally it’s an outlawed love (by Seydoux’s own loner rules), which opens up a whole new set of issues and circumstances for David to contend with.

Be it the hotel’s daily indoctrination via propaganda shows of ‘together is good, alone is bad,’ the occasional random appearance of a camel or peacock gate-crashing an inapproriate scene (presumably loners whose 45 days had expired), or the loners’ own insistence that only electronic music should be danced to – a sort of woodland silent disco – as this would not encourage any human interaction and potential flirting, The Lobster is steeped in the darkest of humour.

There’s also a rather unsettling and sinister undercurrent that underpins the film; a fear of stepping out of line, by saying or doing the wrong thing and an assortment of characters whose extreme reticence would seem to reflect this.

As the old Japanese saying states: “never be the nail that stands up above the others…”

I did feel that the concept or perhaps more accurately, its delivery, was on the wane a little in the film’s latter stages. The stilted, almost robotic delivery of the characters started to become a little tiresome. That said, the final scene is as tense and riveting as anything I’ve seen all year and is a fitting finale.

Not a classic by any means, but a weird and wonderful idea, well acted and well executed.

Recommended.