Monday, 9 May 2011
Review : Martyrs ( 2008 )
A young woman's quest for revenge on those she believes abducted and tortured her when she was a child leads both herself and her closest friend into an unending nightmare that will take them to the darkest regions of human suffering..
Ive had to wait quite some time to review MARTYRS. Its been on my mind to give my thoughts on this piece for a long time now. Ive viewed it four times since its release, and Ive played it over and over in my mind. Finally after all this time Ive came to understand how I actually feel about the film.
I'll say right off the bat that this is a masterfully made work, with wonderful performances from all involved. Director Pascal Laugier has very rightly been hailed as a master of both cinema and the horror genre. He's created a rare beast with this film. A piece that's beyond genre and that's as beautifully crafted as anything out there. He's very quickly become one of the trailblazers for the French New Wave of horror that's taken the world by its throat and shown us the true nature of fear. He excels here. As the young leads Lucie and Anna, respectively, both Mylene Jampanoi and Morjana Alaouiare are fantastic. Mylenes 'Lucie' is a tragic and fearful figure, desperate and doomed. As a counterpoint, Morjana's 'Anna' is gentle, loving and infinitely compassionate. The relationship between these two opposites is, for much of our tale, the driving force. Lighting and cinematography are just as stark as a film of this calibre requires without being distracting, and the music veers wildly from experimental freakouts, to giallo-esque rock rhythm's, to all out mournful requiems. It all fits. MARTYRS is the whole package. Now, with the rest of the review I'll try and express how it FEELS, because MARTYRS is all about feeling. It goes beyond being simply a film and veers into territories uncharted. Its been compared to HELLRAISER, and to PASSION OF THE CHRIST, among others. None of these films comes close. Neither in terms of horror or in terms of spiritual catharsis.
MARTYRS is the sort of cinematic experience very few will say they enjoy. In fact, its very much the sort of experience, cinematic or otherwise, that most will never wish to go through again. The questions that arise in ones head as they watch this film are reason enough to avoid it in the future, not to mention the images that are burned into your mind or the feelings of despair the film can inspire in even the lightest of souls. This is not a film to be entered into blithely.
MARTYRS is something of a transcendent experience. Its a work of pure art masquerading as a horror film. That it works completely as both an art house study of the human state, AND as a hyper violent and often terrifying horror film, are just two of its many, many wonders. Its a horror film. A story of redemption through suffering. An analysis of religious extremism. A look at the after effects of child abuse. A journey into guilt. It draws the viewer in from frame one and pulls you kicking and screaming into the darkness, and it never stops to see how your holding up, nor does it care.
If your new to this film, be sure to go in blind. The less you know the more powerful and shocking the many twists and turns are. Its cinema as catharsis, and as such, you'll want to be open to its rewards and its sorrows. Be prepared for some very tough scenes. There is serious human degradation here, none of which I'll speak of as each act of violence is as important to the films message as is its overall theme. Like IRREVERSIBLE, there have been outcries of exploitation and gore-nography since its release, but these are merely means by which to attempt to categorise something which cannot and will not fit into any previous cinematic mould. You may love it, you may hate it. You may simply respect it from afar as many I know who have viewed it seem to. Like a wild animal, both beautiful and deadly. One thing I'm absolutely sure you will never do is forget it. MARTYRS tattoos itself onto your soul. Its without doubt one of the most disturbing stories ever put to film, yet somehow, in some inconceivable way, MARTYRS is beautiful. There is hope here. There is love, and in some imperceptible way there is gentleness is even the most extreme scenes of heartbreaking tragedy.
After viewing this stunning work repeatedly, Ive found its lost none of its power. I believe all great art shines a light into our own existence and if we allow it, into our own soul. Yet some art is so fearless, so determined to break us free of our mental bonds and chains, that it changes how we view the world entirely. This is one such work. MARTYRS stays with us. And like that poor wretched woman who haunts our heroine, Lucie, its horrific, heartbreaking, disgusting, tender and quietly beautiful all in one moment.
MARTYRS is a masterpiece.
10 Beautiful Horrors out of 10