The Films of Yorgos Lanthimos
Dogtooth (April 25/11)
A miserable, consistently worthless piece of work, Dogtooth follows three adult siblings - all of whom have been confined to their parents' home for the entirety of their lives - as they engage in a series of progressively off-the-wall activities and adventures. Filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has infused Dogtooth with an oppressively deliberate pace that immediately alienates the viewer, with the less-than-enthralling atmosphere compounded by Lanthimos' refusal (or inability) to offer up even the most basic of cinematic elements. The ensuing lack of plot and character development ensures that the movie, for the most part, boasts the feel of an especially incompetent compilation of irrelevant sketches, as Lanthimos places an ongoing emphasis on the protagonists' hopelessly pointless day-to-day exploits (eg the son has sex with his father's coworker, the daughter hits herself in the face with a dumbbell, etc, etc). There's little doubt that the movie's total absence of momentum quickly transforms it into an epically interminable experience, while the frustrating absence of context - eg why are the parents doing this to their kids - indicates that Lanthimos has no loftier goal than to shock the viewer. By the time the laughably abrupt, utterly meaningless conclusion rolls around, Dogtooth has certainly established itself as one of the most unpleasant and pervasively wrongheaded art-house flicks to come around in quite some time - with the movie's success among critics and awards groups alike nothing short of inexplicable.
The Lobster (April 18/18)
Yorgos Lanthimos' English-language debut, The Lobster transpires in an alternate reality wherein single people are afforded 45 days to find a mate before they're turned into an animal of their choosing - with the narrative following Colin Farrell's David as he attempts to find a suitable partner before his time runs out. It's perhaps not surprising to note that Lanthimos remains vague on the exact mechanics of the aforementioned society, although, to be fair, the writer/director does a relatively decent job of peppering the stilted dialogue with random (and appreciative) bits of exposition. (The question of why people would agree to live this way remains completely unanswered, however.) There's little doubt, then, that The Lobster's downfall is due predominantly to Lanthimos' aggressively quirky sensibilities, as the filmmaker has suffused the proceedings with increasingly off-putting elements that drain the viewer's interest to a more and more distressing extent (ie the novelty of Lanthimos' unusual approach wears off fairly quickly). It's apparent, at least, that the movie never quite becomes the complete exercise in tedium one might've anticipated, with Lanthimos' admittedly stirring eye for visuals and the strong performances going a long way towards preventing the viewer from checking out completely. (Well, the performances are as strong as reasonably possible given that each and every actor deadpans their way through the entire narrative.) The final result is a predictably off-kilter endeavor from an unapologetically avant-garde filmmaker, with the movie's inability to say anything interesting or cogent about modern relationships cementing its place as a misbegotten cinematic experiment.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
A typically oddball effort from Yorgos Lanthimos, The Killing of a Sacred Deer follows Colin Farrell’s heart surgeon Steven Murphy as his unusual friendship with a young man (Barry Keoghan’s Martin) begins to have an unexpected (and increasingly sinister) impact on his life and family. Filmmaker Lanthimos kicks the proceedings off with a close-up shot of heart surgery and the movie segues into a sterile, almost Kubrickian drama, with the slow-moving narrative augmented with a whole host of expectedly off-the-wall elements and instances of dialogue (eg two characters engage in a conversation about body hair). And although Lanthimos’ striking visual sensibilities consistently elevate one’s interest, The Killing of a Sacred Deer suffers from an overly lackadaisical execution that essentially (and effectively) holds one at arm’s length almost from start to finish. The viewer’s patience does, as a result, begin to seriously wane as time slowly progresses (ie it’s a long, long wait for the movie to actually start being about something), although, by that same token, there’s little doubt that things improve immeasurably as the spare story takes a decidedly sinister turn at around the midway point. It’s clear, though, that the promise of this admittedly off-the-wall second-act twist is eventually squandered by Lanthimos, with the film’s latter half, perhaps inevitably, succumbing to precisely the sort of meandering uneventfulness that undercut the impact of the opening stretch. The end result is a cinematic experiment that ultimately doesn’t quite work, and one can’t help but hope that Lanthimos will someday put his unique approach to work in a story that’s as compelling as his aesthetic sensibilities.