Release date: September 25, 2008
Director: Pascal Laugier
Xavier Dolan and
In Martyrs a child called Lucie is found running down a city street in only underwear, dirty, bloody, dehydrated, and hungry. She'd been held against her will and abused for months, maybe even years, and is institutionalized, and not speaking. She spends years in the hospital, having only one other girl as a friend, Anna, who, even though she's the younger of the two of them, feels the need to take care of the crazy girl.
Lucie can be quite a handful, though. Not only does she have emotional scars, but she's also followed by a mysterious, naked woman who attacks Lucie whenever she's alone. Because of that Anna rarely leaves her side.
Lucie's captors were never caught, of course Lucie herself said as a child that she didn't remember who were the ones that tortured her, as an adult she has never rested trying to find the people. Finally, she thinks that her search might be over when she finds a middle-aged couple living in a French suburb. But the couple seem to be normal; they have teenaged kids, jobs and a nice house. Could Lucie's want for revenge have blinded her judgment? By the time Anna can do something to stop her, it's too late. Lucie's past, the innocent (or maybe not) family, the mental nude woman and a dark secret lying beneath the house all collide in a disturbing, unpredictable orgy of violence.
Martyrs is a creepy, dark, and uncompromisingly violent film that's more admirable than actually enjoyable. In a videotaped introduction to the film at the 2008 Screamfest in LA, director Pascal Laugier (who previously directed the ghost story Saint Ange) seemed almost embarrassed by his film and confessed a love-hate relationship with the movie although he asked people to watch it with an open mind.
It's exactly this kind of openness that puts Martyrs above your standard typical gorefest. You sense a certain freedom in Laugier's script, as if he were thumbing his nose at the movie industry (the industry that, also proceeded to hit his film with the French equivalent of an X rating). The movie looks to break all the rules, jumping from disparate plot point to disparate plot point, and in the final third, repeating scenes the same scenes again and again, seemingly going nowhere in as painful a manner as possible.
And yet, even after all of this I found myself liking it. It's got the devil-may-care attitude and extreme boundry pusing content that any great work should have not that Martyrs is exactly great work not to mention the sort of jaw-dropping climax that leaves viewers in stunned disbelief, for better or worse(this is one of the reasons I think the movie is so good.)
Depending on your POV, the ending could be either completely stupid and disgusting or shockingly brilliant. For me, initial disgust eventually grew into admiration for how Laugier could pull together a movie that seemed headed nowhere and managed to come up with a viable conclusion. It's disturbing, definetely, but while you might be want to label it as the latest in a game of macabre one-upsmanship between French horror directors, it ends with a sense that there in fact was a method to the madness.
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