Thursday, October 24, 2013

Martyrs (2008)

Director - Pascal Laugier
Writers - Pascal Laugier
Production Company - Canal Horizons, Canal+,CineCinema

So I got this wild hair to start this blog for myself a couple of months back.  As I worked my way through the Internet reading people’s thoughts on the best horror films out there Martyrs is one that almost always came up on peoples lists, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Martyrs is written and directed by Pascal Laugier, and as I mentioned it in a previous post it always seemed to get lumped in with Frontiers and Inside – I don’t think Martyrs is anything like these two films.  Don’t read any further if you haven’t watched it, you should definitely go in as a Martyrs virgin as I read in one interview conducted with Pascal, it’s best you know as little as possible.

Lucie at the very tender age of 10 escapes a very brutal captivity - the opening scene is fabulous, dark, and gritty looking.  Once found she is placed in a home of sorts, and becomes friends with another girl living there name Anna.  Anna very tenderly deals with Lucie and the very real affects that captivity has had on her life.

And then we fast forward 15 years, and when I say fast forward I mean it.  Pascal Laugier has said that when he wrote Martyrs the family massacre scene is the one he started off with and built the story around that.  The scene is brutal when Lucie (who’s never been able to let go of what happened to her) stumbles across a picture in the paper of the people who she believes held her captive. 


A family is enjoying what seems to be a nice family breakfast when all hell breaks loose, I love how the director made the family so normal and average, and then quite literally had Lucie blow them away.  The action is wonderful in this scene - the look on Lucie's face says it all.  But does she have it right? Are these the right people, can she possibly remember them?

Enter Anna, who is made aware of what’s happened with a very short phone call from Lucie – they’ve never parted since childhood.  I loved the way their relationship is continued throughout the film.  Anna is drawn to Lucie, almost like a mother.  She enters the house and is sickened with Lucie, but sad for her in the same breath.  The relationship they have is quite deep given the movie is only 99 minutes long – I appreciated the rich history these two had and it made me feel deeply for them.

Anna deals with Lucie over the middle part of this film, she deals with the aftermath of her friend’s massacre and the unfortunate detrimental affects of Lucie’s sad history.  And then it all changes, Lucie’s despair and the endless itch to make things stop in her head changes everything about the direction of the movie, I was taken aback to have a new lead in the film beings I thought Lucie was the prime character - but suddenly Anna is watching someone she is physically and mentally attached too kill themselves, I loved this turn. 

The rest of the movie is captivating, distressing, and very emotional.  Anna finds proof of Lucie’s ordeal with the very shocking discovery of a long kept captive.  Anna tenderly deals with the woman in very heartbreaking scenes, and after the sweet taste of life and the caring hands of Anna touch her for just hours - she is erased from the movie in seconds, and Anna is propelled very deeply into the world she had only heard about from Lucie as a child.

Anna meets a very shocking character named Mademoiselle, now you might say how can and old lady with a head wrap be shocking – well to me her overall look is frightening because you would expect that a person that’s been holding people captive for so many years would be a large 220 pound man with sick perversions…but aha!  That’s never in the cards for Martyrs, and it’s quite refreshing.  There is no rape, no sick perversions, unless you count wanting to find out what lies beyond death a sick perversion.  I loved this idea, it made the Mademoiselle character so compelling and it made the means to the end well…meaningful to the story.  .

Anna, like the rest will be martyred for the sake of this group run by Mademoiselle finding out what lies beyond.   To this point, none of the captives have been able to relay any useful information back to Mademoiselle, but Anna will be different.

What follows is very long, constant, dulling abuse of Anna – but it’s there for a reason.  I felt the anguish, grief, and splintering of Anna from life.  With every scene and every fade to black you get a sense of the time passing, and you actually dull to the torture – like Anna even the viewer comes to except this reality and not be scared of what you’re seeing anymore.  This place in the film is filled with stark violence, but I believe it is not overdone and is perfectly measured out to place you in that room with Anna.

At the end one final blow is relayed to Anna, and it is discovered that she’s entered into the zone of Martyrdom – Mademoiselle is phoned immediately and arrives to hear Anna’s testimony, which is whispered into her ear.

What follows is a gathering of the people involved in Mademoiselles group, you go from being in a very dark dungeon like atmosphere to very excited people arriving at the house to hear Anna’s testimony.  This scene also affected me, people just driving in their cars, living their lives, and arriving at the house where they are about to hear a martyred woman’s testimony – that they funded no doubt. 

As Mademoiselle prepares to tell Anna’s testimony to the group she is slowly removing jewelry, make-up, and her head wrap.  It’s quite scary to see her removing this outer façade, when you think she’d be making herself look nice for such a presentation but to me this represents what is about to happen. To me it was a representation of her now separation from others on the earth.

Mademoiselle is alone in a room, a man speaks to her through the door, asking if the announcement Mademoiselle has - means that Anna saw something and told her, Mademoiselle says that she did, and that it was clear and precise. Mademoiselle asks the man if he could imagine life after death and he says he could not. While Mademoiselle is sitting on the edge of a bathtub, she takes a gun out of her purse. She calls to the man and tells him to “Keep doubting” before shooting herself in the head.

So what does it all mean?  What did Anna deliver and reveal to Mademoiselle?  I know that sometimes when I read and think about God and the afterlife some of the mere glimpses I have into it are to large and immense for my brain to hang on to for even a second.  I trust that what Anna told Mademoiselle was clear, precise, the truth, and much to grand to possess and still pursue human life as she knew it. 

I believe by saying "keep doubting" she was actually giving everyone in her group a chance to live, but Mademoiselle was paralyzed and numb with the info and could no longer exist - as soon as the concepts of what Anna told her entered her brain she was truly erased.  She was letting everyone know that we're not meant to know the truth, she was passing on the proper message to everyone there "keep doubting" - this is the answer, abandon the project.

With our doubts, by our pondering, seeking of answers, isn't this reflective of lives being lead in it's current form? What happens if we know the answers to all of our questions?  Would it blow our mind, like Mademoiselles?

<End Spoilers>

I really did love this movie is was a very emotional experience the whole way through, the music is also quite moving though I do think that is one part where this movie could be improved on to evoke even more response from a viewer.  The movie this totally reminded me of and I'm not sure if anyone else would make the connection, this movie overall reminds of Sunshine by Danny Boyle.  I know, I know, not the same story at all but the overall feel just points me to that film.


  1. Great review! I liked the movie a lot, very surprising! I really like your site, it's very nice and your writing is very good, keep up the good work ;).