Yorgos Lanthimos  

Greek director at the forefront of the 'Greek Weird Wave' which was practically launched by his popular movie Dogtooth, who stands above the rest of his followers with a unique and surreal approach to movie-making. Recurrent themes are social behaviours or social aspects taken to extremes to the point of absurdity, or cultures and behaviours that reflect reality in terms of their goals, except for the fact that they have been altered into something alien, thus exploring society via absurdism. Examples include parents that teach their children the wrong words for things, or a society that hunts down single people and turns them into animals. His earlier movie Kinetta was a dull affair that explores women acting out violent or sexual fantasies of men in the form of a screenplay, thus acting our their 'roles', and getting hurt in the process.

Of Some Interest

Bizarre metaphor piece from Greece about the absurdity of isolation and extreme separationism and the existential effect of being a part or apart of society. A father, together with his willing wife, has brought up his three children to never step out of the house. Words that have to do with the outside world are replaced with other meanings (keyboard is female genitals, zombie is a yellow flower), elaborate stories are told as to why they can't step outside the boundaries of the house (killer cats, dogtooths, and magical qualities of cars), movies are strictly forbidden, and overflying airplanes are toy models that sometimes fall into the garden. The father brings home a tollbooth woman to sexually service his son and curb his sexual urges, but when she experiments with a daughter and gives her movies, it causes havoc with their innocent and undeveloped minds.

Killing of a Sacred Deer, The  
Based on a Greek myth, this is a punishing drama by Lanthimos, not only because it deals with revenge and punishment, but because it is cold and harsh, and also because most of the movie features purposely wooden and detached acting making it a chore to sit through. The theme is life and death, especially as it concerns doctors. A doctor is stalked by a strange young man whose father was treated unsuccessfully by the doctor. The young man seems to hold life and death in his hands, leading to extremely harrowing and inexplicable consequences for the doctor and his family, who ultimately face terrible decisions. Except the doctor always has to make decisions with deathly consequences, and typically does so coldly, much like everyone in this movie. In this world, they all speak and interact woodenly, and even make random inappropriate remarks, except this may only feel that way because they are detached from their words and actions. Which is kind of the point of the movie. But it's still a chore to sit through. Even the sex involves a very detached kinky fantasy. The last 20 minutes are brutally tense in a unique way.

Lobster, The  
Lanthimos delivers another absurdly surreal exploration of social behaviour converted into something else in order to demonstrate its absurdity. In this case, the theme is love and coupling. In this world, people are pressured into finding their soul-mate just like in real life, except that if they don't find someone within 40 days, they are transformed into an animal so that they will get another chance at coupling as an animal. Society teases and brainwashes the loners just like in real life, except that here it reaches absurd proportions, with theatrical plays meant to teach the positive aspects of having someone by your side to help you when you choke, or hotel staff testing your ability to get an erection. Also, soul-mates are picked based on superficial similarities to the point of absurdity, like two people that are short-sighted. Single renegades are hunted but live their own lives under strict rules and punishments in order to avoid developing a relationship, again reflecting reality but taken to a cruel extreme. Real people go to extremes to change themselves (or at least their outward appearance) in order to find favor with their partners, and they do the same in this movie. In short, a pretty good movie that points out the ridiculousness of our social lives using extreme absurdism, although it is lacking some development and seems to pick easy targets.


Lanthimos takes another abstract aspect of society to absurd extremes after he explored separationism in Dogtooth. In this case, he is exploring the roles that people play for others, and whether people, when they die, can be replaced by actors. A group of people naming themselves after mountains in the Alps, provide such a service, replacing dead people by acting out a collection of quirks and mannerisms combined with specific phrases by which they are remembered. A nurse replaces a dead teenage girl and acts out a scene where her parents catch her with her boyfriend, or she replaces a wife and has to say something very cheesy during cunnilingus. A gymnast submits to a cruel coach and praises him even though he does nothing but threaten her, and they all pretend to be celebrities in their spare time. Except it is all delivered cold, deadpan and without emotion, making the whole thing even more absurd. Eventually though, a woman starts falling apart and matters break down when she fails to deliver her lines or does something 'wrong', whatever wrong is in this context. Until the goals of the movie click you may wonder if you got the right subtitles seeing as they all talk in non-sequiturs. Then it is interesting for a while, but fails to develop or deliver anything beyond the initial idea, making it a rather cold and unrewarding, stretched-out, intellectual experiment (like a minor Haneke movie).

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents