It’s fitting that Greek director and playwright Yorgos Lanthimos can deliver tragedies to audiences in a modern and twisted fashion—his style is clean and simplistic; his methods are unnerving and subversive and his films are anything but ordinary.
With a career as selective and impactful as his, every release furthers his talents as a director and visionary as well as brings him more into the mainstream. With his theatrical debut Kinetta in 2005, the world was introduced to Lanthimos and his brand of filmmaking.
A common feature throughout all his filmography is no introduction to his worlds. Viewers are, without a hint of context, dropped into the story and left to piece together the things that are out of place until the whole, strange portrait is complete. A personal favorite is the opening minutes of 2015’s The Lobster: one whole minute of a woman driving through the Irish countryside before she parks, steps out, shoots and kills a donkey. This opening scene perfectly encapsulates what to expect in this dark comedy. This pales in comparison to the sheer shock value of his 2017 film The Killing of a Sacred Deer and its first shot. What’s a better way of shocking your audience then starting your film with a full, unapologetic view of an open-heart surgery?
Stepping behind the camera, he utilizes several techniques that create engrossing cinematography, with the help of four-time collaborator cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis, including his latest release The Favorite, but it also creates a lot of tension. In The Killing of a Sacred Deer, there are multiple instances where throughout a scene, the only thing out of place is a slow methodical zoom in. It’s surprising how such a small camera technique can instill such worriment in a viewer. This coupled with impressive long takes and treating the plot with extreme seriousness (despite some ridiculous qualities) allows Lanthimos to transport the audience to whatever twisted world of his choosing and whatever entrancingly ludicrous plot he can think of.
Lanthimos has also had incredible casting throughout his films, bringing in seasoned veterans like Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Emma Stone, Olivia Coleman and Rachel Weisz. He also has given less than household name actors amazing opportunities to explore different roles and give performances of their careers, such as Ben Winshaw and Barry Keoghan. This is especially true in Keoghan’s case, whose career took off after his role in Deer and was immediately cast in Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic, Dunkirk.
Rarely has a director known how to put their fans in such a headlock while watching their films, but Lanthimos has done just that. With a combination of absurd plots coupled with no nonsense, stellar casts and a camera in the hands of a man with vision, it would not be surprising to see his name on an Oscar ballot as Best Director soon.