Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post

What We’re Watching: Yorgos Lanthimos is the king of unorthodox films

Psychological films are a genre that has been a staple in Hollywood from the beginning. According to filmbinder, one of the earliest films of all time, “A Trip To the Moon,” is regarded as the first psychological film ever made. With a short 14-minute runtime and a small budget for 1902, its story is about astronauts landing on the moon and fighting off the planet’s hostile inhabitants. 

With such a simple premise, it managed to cement itself as one of the most classic films of all time simply because of its haunting imagery and confusing nature, something that’s grown into the genre of science-fiction and psychological films released since. 

Historically, many directors have also taken up this style of unnerving filmmaking, such as David Lynch and David Cronenberg. However, even more recently a new voice has risen to the spotlight for his unsettling tone of writing: Yorgos Lanthimos. Lanthimos uses the human condition and spins it on its head. 

What sets Lanthimos apart are the ways in which he uses those conditions. His characters are human, but they are void of human attributes. His characters don’t present like people we can relate to but rather are reminiscent of watching robots or an alien race interact. 

The best example of those characters is in his 2017 psychological horror film, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” which arguably is one of Lanthimos’s greatest films to date. The characters have no discernable personalities. They speak in a monotone and with no inflection in their emotions. The main cast purposely feels inhuman, creating an uncomfortable disconnect between us and them.

Lanthimos’s directing shines in this film because he wants the audience to feel on edge and uncertain of where the story is leading. The character’s feeling of autonomy allows him to use chilling sound design and cinematography to make the film haunting because it’s not a supernatural story, but one of obsession and revenge. His style of directing aids the film in having a peculiar vibe and leaves the audience pondering everything they just saw.

The same sentiment is also present in his 2023 film, “Poor Things.” Similarly to “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” the film is – in short – weird. It’s awkward, jarring and unorthodox. While “Poor Things” isn’t necessarily a horror story, Lanthimos still manages to make both films give audiences a sense of bewilderment and discomfort. 

I believe that is intentional. Lanthimos strides to make his films feel alien, as their unusual stylization forces audiences to ponder and really think about the story being told. 

That is evident in “Poor Things,” where you get to watch a woman embark on a journey of independence and crusade for self-love and sexual freedom. On the surface, the film is simply a funky and convoluted art-house flick about one woman’s erotic life journey. In reality, it’s a beautiful tale of self-love and appreciation of one’s own life told unconventionally.

In all of Lanthimos’ work, there’s a commonality of strangeness — his work is not meant to be mundane. It poses the question of what it means to be human, urging us to ask why we become obsessed, why we fight and why we act the way we do.

It’s ingenious to utilize non-human acting to portray such a message because it puts up a mirror for the viewer. We can’t ask the characters in the films those questions, so instead we are forced to turn to ourselves for answers.

Lanthimos’s methods of storytelling are definitely worth seeing for yourself. If you haven’t seen any of the films mentioned, consider sitting down and watching them. If you are left yearning for more eccentric work from Lanthimos, consider adding his other films “Dogtooth” and “The Lobster” to your list. 

Mia Ashby is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Mia by emailing her at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH