Friday, March 13, 2009

The Shock and Awe of Martyrs: A Movie Review

Director: Pascal Laugier.

Writer: Pascal Laugier.

*Here be spoilers, enjoy.*

French film "Martyrs," now on DVD tells a story in a grotesque, mysterious way while hinting at possible religious motifs throughout. Not for the faint of heart this film starts off with scenes of female torture and really stays in an unapologetically dark tone during the show. Progressing to more strange territory in the later half of the film viewers will need to prepare for director Pascal Laugier's shock and awe visual assault that will surprise the senses.

Focusing on central characters Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi), and Anna (Morjana Alaoui) the film starts off with Lucie escaping from a warehouse, where she has been a captive for over a year. Meeting up with friend Anna in an orphanage Lucie displays behaviour that would relate to her earlier abuse. Transitioning quickly ahead fifteen years Lucie knocks on the Belfond family's door and dispatches the father with a shot of buckshot to the gut. Methodically moving from room to room the rest of the family, including children meet a similar bloody end.

Starting off in mysterious tones the story seems to develop into stranger territory as Lucie sees visions of a dead person and Anna becomes a religious test subject for a group of mute zealots. After killing the Belfond family, in cold-blood Lucie then begins to cut her arms with a knife while an imaginary demon slams her head into wall. Staying in the bizarre theme, having had enough of flashbacks and hallucinations Lucie throws herself through a window and then slits her throat with one last knife cut while Anna attempts to intervene.

Moving into even darker, scarier territory Anna uncovers a secret room where a woman, apparently another torture subject is being held. Completely starving and totally scarred this woman, after being given her freedom attempts to kill herself with a large blade, when a group of religious nuts comes on the scene. Now, Anna gets her chance to be the third torturee in the film and after receiving a skinning from a non-speaking/non-feeling doctor she sees visions of the other world.

So, there we have the plot and major story developments from "Martyrs," which really attempts to make the viewer question - what is on the other side, or how much can a human being endure? French films of late really seem to push the viewer's boundaries by introducing loads of gore and blood while holding nothing back visually and the result is surprise with disbelief. Often in suspenseful tones this film really comes across as sickening, grotesque, shocking and somewhat darkly insightful or disturbing. Asking difficult questions that are as old as time "Martyrs," challenges the audience to give their perspective on immortality or life after death. Bringing up an interesting debate the film does not offer any answer of its own and ends in a disappointingly unclear fashion.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the film is how the story unconventionally unfolds and the director's mature, graphic approach to storytelling. Revealing very little in the first thirty minutes, about the characters in the film or the story "Martyrs," grabs a hold of one's curiousity, and really holds on despite brutal beatings, torture scenes, and graphic displays of murder that make one's stomach churn. Telling the story through Lucie's flashbacks the story does begin to make logical sense and the mystery dissipates, but can a film whose central premise involves pushing human beings past physical limits in order to partake in religious visions really hold together? In fact the film does flow in some type of surreal sense; yet, most viewers will likely feel uncomfortable with the terrifying, inhumane subject matter.

Delving into religious and philosophical topics "Martyrs," begs the question what happens on the other side? However, the answers cannot totally be found here and many audience members need to take some preparation before viewing this surprisingly gory film. Have a look at the trailer before deciding on whether to watch this film and if you see "Martyrs," let it be known that this review only scratches at the surface of the visual terror inside the film.

For a trailer of the film visit here. "

7.5 Grinning Skulls out of 10.

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Anonymous said...

Watched it last night. Jesus Christ. Way better than Inside like you said. I can not believe they fraking skinned that poor girl. OMG.

I am going to have to review this. Look for it.

Michael Allen said...

Lol, I know this one is actually scary to watch and the girl with the mask slashing her wrists, woah! Only the French would create something this scary to watch, forget conservative America.

Film-Book dot Com said...

I want to watch this movie again but at the same time I know what's waiting in the latter part of the film.

Michael Allen said...

I am not sure what is worse the girl being skinned alive or the helmet headed female, whose flesh comes off with the iron cage, very shocking. I cannot wait to see how Laugier interprets "Hellraiser," for 2011.