Tag Archives: The Lobster

THE FAVOURITE

“…Lanthimos’ brilliant yet unashamedly vulgar film well and truly puts the period in period drama.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ last two big screen outings, The Lobster and The Killing of a Secret Deer, were both peculiar and sinister in their own way, yet both pieces, as entertaining and engaging as they were, felt a little overly self-indulgent and peculiar for peculiar’s sake at times.

With The Favourite, on the other hand, the Director seems to have successfully harnessed his trademark quirky approach much more effectively here, anchoring it within a recognised historical context and an altogether more conventional film narrative.

Queen Anne is an emotionally fragile and rather unhinged woman. Maddened by much historic personal sorrow and ongoing health issues in her life, she cuts a frequently tragic figure.

Despite being a woman of considerable power and influence, Queen Anne’s personal issues and deep insecurities offer up the perfect scenario for any wannabe confidence trickster to take advantage of a woman whose deep-rooted jealousy and need for reassurance frequently results in irrational shrieking fits directed at whomever may be closest to her at any given time.

Her closest friend and personal ally, Lady Sarah, advises her and guides her through both her personal challenges and any important matters of the state. Though a little dysfunctional at times, it’s a convenient and largely symbiotic relationship and one which most importantly maintains a level of decorum around the palace.

The arrival of a young servant girl of some ambition, however, will gradually come to undermine Lady Sarah’s position in what quickly descends into a wicked game of one up-man-ship between the conniving pair.

Lanthimos’ film is as shocking, darkly humorous and at times unnerving as you might expect. Emma Stone is excellent as the treacherous young upstart, Abigail, whilst Rachel Weisz is as good as I’ve seen her in many years as the Queen’s chief advisor and confidant, Lady Sarah, bringing back fond memories of Rowan Atkinson’s Black Adder III character, and the largely self-serving ‘relationship’ that he would always ensure existed between himself and the congenital buffoon, The Prince Regent.

The main plaudits, however, are being heaped upon Olivia Colman, and rightly so. Her performance as Queen Anne is deliciously deranged yet achingly melancholic. Surrounded by 17 house rabbits – one to compensate for each of the children that she has tragically lost during her doleful life – her emotional and mental decline is superbly captured by Colman, further cementing her growing status as one of the finest and most versatile British actresses of this generation.

Lanthimos predictably lays his trademark oddity on thick. Unflattering low slung camera angles unashamedly look – metaphorically-speaking – up the skirts and noses of the film’s chief protagonists. This, together with frequent unsettling 180 degree rapid camera pans and the use of barrel-edged fish eye lenses all goes together to create a highly unconventional view of life in the court of the country’s head Monarch. Indeed, Lanthimos’ vision brilliantly depicts a sort of crazed and hedonistic existence that one might not normally associate with the higher echelons of the aristocracy.

Never a Director to shy away from the grotesque, the vomit excrement and blood unsurprisingly flows freely. Pride and Prejudice this is not.

Lanthimos’ brilliant yet unashamedly vulgar film well and truly puts the period in period drama.

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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.