The Killing of a Sacred Deer Explained. Archetypal Karma Against Modern Society

Spoiler alert! The following text reveals details of the storyline of the film.


Yorgos Lanthimos`s The Killing Of A Sacred Deer tells the story of a very successful surgeon Steven Murphy. One of Murphy`s patients died during the surgery straight on the operating table. Murphy did not pay much attention to it, the tragic incident never ruined his tranquil life with a gorgeous spouse and two charming children.

However, the following events start to occur very fast. Martin, the son of the dead man, blames Steven for his father`s death. Now, to restore the “balance of life” Steven must kill one of the members of his family. No matter whether his wife or one of the kids, but not Murphy himself. If Steven doesn`t do that, they all die. Of course, Murphy doesn`t believe Martin. But what starts to happen next, convinces Steven and his wife Anna that everything Martin said going to be true.

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer is based on the ancient Greek myth where King Agamemnon kills the deer that belonged to the goddess Artemis. In exchange, Artemis demands Agamemnon`s most beautiful daughter to be taken from him. Agamemnon tries to evade commitment, but the Greek gods were not the type of creatures who let you get away without redemption.

Yorgos Lanthimos’s film takes that ancient myth and adapts it to modern life. It`s a common thing for archetypical stories that are evergreen. But Lanthimos’s concept goes further, it`s not just a contemporary interpretation of an eternal story like, for instance, Romeo and Juliet in the 21st century. 

Lanthimos is interested in applying ancient people`s beliefs and philosophy to the completely changed civilization order. For many thousands of years, humankind lived in an environment where any crime should have its equivalent redemption. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth as it is told in the Book Of Exodus. These principles were spread everywhere, even in communities that never communicated with each other, which makes the mentioned principles inherent to human nature.

The famous scientist Jared Diamond wrote about several undiscovered tribes in New Guinea that lived in the 20th century almost exactly the same as their ancestors thousands of years ago. The scientist researched their life and behavior, including crimes and punishments, and found that the “eye for an eye” principle often leads to big conflicts and even mutual massacres because there is no end to the chain of murders.

To avoid it, the tribes’ representatives and leaders try to settle agreements, where the villain repents, asks for forgiveness, and pays the agreed amount for the damage. That does not return the killed person, but it is everything that could be done by people, not Gods.

Murphy does not repent. He refuses to plead guilty. He does not believe that something mystical may happen to him and his family in the modern computerized developed society. And yet, it happens. Because it was occurring for thousands of years before mankind became wrapped in modern human values, you cannot get rid of this bloody unconscious inheritance simply by saying “It is ancient”.

Probably, it happens not only in The Killing Of A Sacred Deer but in real life as well. We just do not notice it – the ability to see what is hidden belongs to great artists, as medieval painter and art critic Vazari once said.

Tolegen Baitukenov, MovieTerra

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *