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Archive for November 21st, 2009

Martyrs

I sat down to watch Martyrs with no real prior knowledge of what it was going to be about. It had been recommended to me and I put it on my DVD rental list without reading a synopsis or review. It actually went on general release in the UK earlier in the year but didn’t make it to my local cinema. The disk came through a few days ago, I watched it not knowing what to expect.

The film is split into three relatively distinct parts, it begins with a girl escaping from captivity. This is done without any back story of who she is, how she came to be imprisoned or who her captors were. Traumatised she is put in a home where she befriends a girl of a similar age. It looks at this stage as if the film could develop into a ghost story along the lines of The Orphanage or The Devils Backbone. Then suddenly the story jumps forward fifteen years to where the rest of the film is set other than a few flashbacks. The second part begins with a happy family eating breakfast on a Sunday morning, clearly this must be connected to the earlier story but at this time we don’t know how. The final part is completely unexpected. It is impossible to say any more without giving the plot away so I will leave it there. The final third takes the most unexpected turn and is truly difficult to watch. Without describing what happens it probably isn’t possible to put into words the experience of watching it but I will try; disturbing, traumatic and upsetting all spring to mind but all fall woefully short. The film doesn’t so much have a twist but it unfolds in an unusual direction, I can’t draw any conclusions as to the meaning of the film without giving away the plot. For the same reason I won’t include the trailer, it gives too much away.

Controversial in its native France, it was released uncut here in the UK in cinemas and on DVD with a simple warning “Contains sustained strong bloody violence and horror”. It has been mistaken by some reviewers as torture porn. Whilst in many ways it is far more brutal than Hostel or Saw, there is far more going on here. There are rumors of an American remake on the way, if you want torture porn wait for that, I’m sure it won’t disappoint. Taking a step away from the horror and controversy of the film the thing that sets it apart from many other films of the genre is that it is really well made. The main attraction of the film is great acting. The two female leads give really strong performances. Mylène Jampanoï who plays Lucie is well established but Morjana Alaoui who plays Anna is a relative newcomer in only her second film.

A little like with Antichrist, it is such a strong and powerful film, with so much to say for itself that I feel I must recommend other people see it. However I make this recommendation fully in the knowledge that many viewers will hate and detest the film, others will be sickened and offended by it, even the ones who like it will be shocked by it. You have been warned!

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