So most of my friends are saying that the new movie "Killing of a sacred deer" is a metaphor or allegory.

And my response is "a metaphor" or allegory of what?

In my opinion at best it is something like a Greek tragedy that is taking place in the modern world. Martin plays the role of both oracle, but also wronged party declaring the punishment and having some kind of strange divine power. The gods (if they do exist) (which are exacting justice), are not actually visible or present... but the curse and dilemma is.

But I don't see the metaphor...

In response they have told me stuff like this:

Yes, it is true that allegory / transport is less intense in "Sacred Dear" than in "Lobster".

The director and the author use the curse as a mechanism to create the dilemma of the father: which of his family members would prefer to die.

The film could have a more realistic affair (eg three people who die and need instruments, but only two instruments available). Instead, he used this allegorical way, saying that your internal struggles and your guilty actions will haunt you. Sins could come back in the form of Karma or "divine punishment." Even the ancient tragedies were allegorical, since they used so much divine powers and divine interventions to talk about concepts such as family / honor / patriotism,

However, I really don't understand how the film can be called a metaphor and a metaphor to what? It is a tragedy signalling the risk of karma and justice to past sins...

But does this mean it is a metaphor? Wouldn't that make every story a metaphor if they try to convey some lesson or warning?

So is it a metaphor or allegory? I really feel it isn't but I'd like opinions/answers.


The only somewhat real-life example I can think of is having to decide between two identical twins as to which would receive an organ transplant. E.g. in the following article it ends with the quote:

"If their health status is the same, if their chance of benefit is the same, then they'll flip a coin," he says. "It'll be chance, I'm guessing. That's what they will do. And, hey, what other options are there?"

Reference: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/organ-donation-ethics-how-doctors-decide-who-gets-a-transplant-1.2936439

But I still don't feel that the movie is much of a metaphor or allegory. Unless ofcourse I don't really understand what an allegoric story is.

  • 1
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 18:28
  • 2
    A allegory is a religious metaphor. So if the film is borrowing from a known Religious story, basically a kind of "retelling", then it's allegorical, but if the metaphor has no apparent religious parallels, parable(s), or affiliation, then motifs (aesthetics, symbols, key words or phrases) may just be metaphors. BCdotWeb seems to find you an allegorical interpretation of the film. Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 18:36
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    An allegory is not strictly religious. An allegory could be political, philosophical, or otherwise. The simplest way to define an allegory is that it is a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to have a hidden meaning. Consider for example The Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum or Animal Farm by George Orwell. These are allegories which are political in nature.
    – sanpaco
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 1:24

1 Answer 1



The director purposely left the movie's interpretation ambiguous. It could easily be interpreted allegorically just as well as literally.

An allegory is a work of art, poetry, literature, film, etc that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.

If you search google for different analysis and explanations of the film then you will find a trove of sources of different critics interpreting the film to have deeper and hidden meanings.

Some examples of potential hidden meanings:

  1. From an article on vulture: In one sense, Steven’s sin is America’s sin. He lives in a beautiful house, with a family that, from the outside, appears perfect; he works in a hospital that exists in the lens of Lanthimos’s camera as nothing less than a cathedral to science and medicine, an assembly of nave-like hallways, spired lobbies, and MRI altars. Martin comes to collect the price for this luxury and lack of accountability.
  1. From an article on theatlantic.com: To be clear, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a drama, and a grisly one at times. But it’s infused with Lanthimos’s unique way of looking at the world, which he populates with characters who speak in a robotic, detached manner. Though Sacred Deer makes more of an attempt to resemble real life (The Lobster was set in a heightened dystopia), it’s like a warped version of a scary story told to children around a campfire, a cautionary myth in which a seemingly perfect family comes up against an inexplicable force of darkness.
  1. From the Washington Post: Martin, who at this point seems part god and part demon, serves a role that is more allegorical than literal, in a story that gradually becomes a meditation — or, rather, a howling cry — on the impossibility of justice and atonement, and the tenacious grip of guilt. At one point, after Martin has bitten Steven — and then bitten himself to show parity — he says, "Do you understand? It's a metaphor. It's symbolic."

The director has commented on the movie's ambiguous meaning -

"I never try to analyze too much why am I saying this and what does it mean," he said. "I do to a certain extent, because otherwise things would be incoherent and I don't want that either. But I try to be as instinctive as possible and as spontaneous as possible, from the inception of what the idea is, to what the script is, to where you're making the film and the people that you choose."

Lanthimos allowed that part of the initial idea for "Sacred Deer" had to do with a young boy taking over control of a successful, older person's life, and from there, "Much of it came out of the logic of how do you create a situation where it's also ambiguous about who is responsible for what, and what is just, and how far are you willing to go, and can you blame any of the parties involved, and do you feel for any of the parties involved? To create an impossible equation with an impossible answer, basically."

Given this information, it would not probably be prudent to argue too much over what the allegorical interpretation should be or what it was intended to be. But the point is that you can definitely view the film as being an allegory, meaning it can be interpreted to have deeper or hidden meanings.

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