"I take orders from the Octoboss."


tn_martyrsMARTYRS is one seriously fucked up horror movie. It hails from France circa last year, but comes to region 1 DVD today. I went in knowing zero about the plot, just that it had a reputation as a good but brutal horror movie. This DVD actually has an introduction where the director, Pascal Laugier, introduces himself as “the director of the movie you’ve decided to watch tonight” and then says, “I’m not sure you’ve made the right decision.” Then he proceeds to apologize in advance.

And I think he’s only half joking. My recommendation: if you can take a really upsetting horror movie and want to see a good one, stop reading and see it fresh like I did. If you need some convincing or something you can click through. I’ll still try to be vague.

mp_martyrsThe movie starts with a young girl in her underwear, covered in dirt and blood, her hair messily cut short. She’s running through an alley, screaming, having clearly escaped some kind of horrible situation. And the movie doesn’t really get much more comfortable than that, I’m afraid. So make sure your mother-in-law is not coming over. And don’t watch this if you’re a dude and you have a hot date later in the week, because you won’t be able to get it up for a while.

The girl is Lucie, she’d been chained up in a warehouse somewhere with a little hole to relieve herself through. Now she’s taken into a hospital but is horribly traumatized and doesn’t really talk or remember who did that to her. Also it appears she’s being stalked by some kind of naked, feral woman. We don’t know if this is hallucination, haunting memory or, you know, horror movie stuff. Demons or ghosts or something. And then it skips ahead 15 years and you don’t know – is Lucie gonna be the hero? The monster? Something else? I had no idea.

The subject matter is obviously very disturbing. It purposely reminds you of those puke-inducing news stories you see sometimes about some crazy lady keeping her kids locked up in a basement covered in shit. I read one not long ago about some poor girl who they thought would never learn to talk because of being treated like that during the time her brain was developing. Here’s a movie about a girl who escapes that, and it deals with her nightmares, her suicidal thoughts, her survivor’s guilt, her need for vengeance, her difficulty in re-adjusting and her possible insanity.

But Laugier doesn’t just coast on that unpleasantness. He also messes with you through all the best storytelling tricks. He keeps you uneasy by never letting you get solid footing in the story, you feel like you’re on a wobbly boat. He makes you guess and second-guess who the protagonist is gonna be, who can be trusted, what is reality, what is a misunderstanding or a hallucination. It keeps bringing up situations that imply whole movies that are then left behind when it spins off in another direction. It sets up expectations and then sneaks up and pushes you over the side, like PSYCHO or Brian De Palma at his best, or that one part in DEEP BLUE SEA.

Parts of the movie made me think of HOSTEL and HARD CANDY, but those seem kind of safe and commercial in comparison. This one never allows you to be comfortable. There are no funny lines or happy frat boys trying to get laid scenes. (There is nudity but, in my opinion, not the kind that you like.) It knows exactly what will please the crowd and holds it out in front of you and keeps pulling it away before you can bite at it. Even in the final stretch I was hoping it would go one way and fearing that it wouldn’t. (Come to think of it, I could be a studio executive. I always want every horror movie to end with the victim getting revenge and getting away.)

The direction is high quality, bluntly colliding a realistic world with one you hope to God isn’t real. It can have documentary-like handheld camera in a real suburb, where you hear dogs bark and crows caw in the distance, then seamlessly drag you to some sicko Clive Barker otherworldly shit going on nearby. In fact, I remembered in the middle of the movie that Laugier is the guy that’s supposed to do a remake of HELLRAISER. Now that I’ve seen MARTYRS I’m sold (or I would be if the moron producers of HELLRAISER 4: BLOODLINES weren’t involved). MARTYRS gave me kind of a similar feeling to what I felt when I first saw HELLRAISER. It just seems so much more genuinely twisted than your standard horror movie. It doesn’t seem like it’s trying too hard to shock you. It just unfolds casually like it’s not entirely aware of how shocking it actually is.

I gotta admit, there were times I was delighted by the movie’s willingness to go over the line, and other times I didn’t think I could take much more. If you’re not that into horror, or you’re one of those people who likes one or two critically acclaimed horror movies every couple years and gets offended by most of the other ones, then I absolutely don’t think you should ever see this movie. It will give you a bloody nose. The characters suffer horribly and not only in the usual ways. But it’s not really one of those movies that makes me feel dirty for watching it. It never seems like anything is supposed to be a cool horror gag. The violence is supposed to be horrible and degrading. And the movie is clearly on the side of the degraded. Even when the violence is somewhat justified Laugier forces you to wince at it. It’s definitely in that Peckinpah category of the violent movies that are disgusted by violence.

It’s definitely the best new horror movie I’ve seen in a while. It’s good enough that I just can’t bring myself to ruin it for anybody by saying any more about what it’s about, so this is about as far as I’m gonna be able to go with this review.  Sorry. The end.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 at 1:26 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

50 Responses to “Martyrs”

  1. Okay, I’m taking your advice and putting this on my Netflix queue without reading your review. Some of the French horror movies I’ve seen in the last few years have actually been pretty lame, like “Inside” or “Frontier(s).” Both gore heavy horror films that were too sadistic to be fun, yet too over-the-top to be intense/serious. Then again, “Them” was pretty fucking sweet.

    Any way, how disturbing/unpleasant are we talking here? Original “Last House on the Left”? “Last House on the Left” remake? Italian cannibal movie? Takashi Miike movie? Where on the scale does it fall, Vern? Inquired minds would like to know.

  2. Don’t know if you read it, but a couple months ago on Ain’t it Cool, they had a MASSIVE interview with the director, discussing and dissecting pretty much every second of this movie, plus Hellraiser stuff. Good read.

  3. This review scared me.

  4. saw this at Toronto Film Festival last year, and I think i clawed some of the felt off of my armrest. incredible movie., but i don’t know how to recommend it without feeling dirty.

    love the site vern.

  5. and to answer the top guy, this is better than Frontiere(s) and Inside. and unlike inside, the violence isn’t … uh… fun.

  6. Interesting. I tend to like horror movies that make you think “I wonder if I should be watching this, and not because it’s poor quality” while they’re in progress. I’ll have to track this down.

    In relation to the classic you cited there, I’ve been wondering for a long time, after reading your illuminating run-throughs of the Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, and Phantasm series, when I was going to get the treat of “Vern Tell’s It Like It Is™ On The Hellraiser Movies”. That tasty-looking puzzlebox DVD reissue of Hellraiser and Hellraiser II just came out a couple weeks ago, so it couldn’t be more timely, unless you’re saving that up as a Halloween project. Just an idear.

    And belated congratulations on the re-invention of the site. I didn’t even discover your new digs until you made mention that you aren’t updating the old site anymore, so I got a couple Vern review treats today that I wasn’t expecting. One of the advantages of being the last to know. I don’t own a cell phone, either. We must be the last two people on Earth, Vern.

  7. Hey everybody , first post here.
    Well , I`m a fan of the more goofy horror movies , like Evil Dead and Bad Taste , and I have never seen a Hostel or Saw movie , but I`m a big Hellraiser and Barker fan and this is not the first time I read ”MARTYRS” and ”HELLRAISER” in the same article , and not only because the guy is supposedly directing the remake.I`m glad to finally know that there is a bona fide horror component , psychological or otherwise , because every other article I have found made this movie look like a non stop gore marathon and nothing else.Now I`m interested.

    Also , congratulations Vern , for the new website , I like this comment
    box but I will miss the old school format.

    And Mattman , I don’t own a cell phone either , I think Vern is kind of a magnet for low-tech individuals…..I hate the fucking things.

  8. Gonna have to pick this up on Monday.

    For anyone who’s seen Frontier(s) – Does it get better after the first half-hour?

    I just got bored with it, and after getting burned by a few of those 8 Films To Die For movies, I didn’t think it would be worth my time. I don’t know if it’s relevant, but I hated Wolf Creek up until the point that it got to the point about an hour into it. Is Frontier(s) the same deal?

    And speaking of not relevant… Midnight Meat Train kicks-ass.

  9. I’d say this is better than Frontiere(s), about as good as AL’interieur and not as good as Ils ….and then i’d go and say that if you liked Haute Tension but were pissed off by the ending then this might have a similar effect on you …except it’ll piss you off twice and feel a lot longer ….but that could be my booze addled memory cells. Anyhoo its all just arty torture porn that turns its Roman nose up at its adolescent yankee relative at the end of the day. But thats why we like it.

    Did all these fellas (Laugier, Gens and Bustillo) take the same movie direction class or buy onions at the same fruit & veg market?

    And did anyone get the same shock to the lobes that I got when I saw that the big skinhead cannibal nazi Goetz from Frontiere(s) is the cool chevallier/taxidermist/ninja De Fronsac from Brotherhood of the Wolf ….!!! Zomg!

  10. Hamslime ….Frontiere(s) doesnt get any better by the way. I think we need to look to the Koreans for consistency these days.

  11. Picaroony – I haven’t seen Inside or Frontier(z) but I disagree with the Haute Tension comparison. The ending of that one made people mad not because it was unexpected, but because it asked you to accept that actually what you were seeing was not happening and that it was in fact something much more ludicrous. This one fucks with you in a different way. It’s not a trick ending. It’s also much less of a “fun” movie. Haute Tension is gruesome but all in an enjoyable slasher movie context, this is more of a deeply unsettling type of vibe.

  12. OK, final review nail in the coffin carrying my willpower – when UK release comes out from Optimum, going to have to make a blind buy.

  13. Wow! Very hard to get this film out of your head after
    watching. You’ll need a couple of days before watching
    any other movies. This is the second film I’ve watched
    in recent months where I felt gut-punched afterwards.
    The first was a British film called Eden Lake, which I also
    recommend as being a great film that I didn’t like

    Ps. Obligatory ‘cool site’-type comment, Vern.

  14. I wish I had used the word watching a little less in my previous post. Apologies. I couldn’t delete it.

  15. So in other words, put in Frontier(s) and skip to the middle? I can hande that. I do like “torture porn” (Although I think the term is unfair and kind of silly. Nobdy calls movies like Atonement “Oscar porn”.) but my biggest issue with Frontier(s) was that it was just boring and I had a hard time paying attention to it so I turned it off.

    As for Haute Tension, As much as I enjoyed it, I think that movie would have been much better without the twist ending.

    Twist endings can work obviously, but Haute Tension’s “twist” felt more like an afterthought. Add to that, *spoiler alert* the explainations of why she was actually the killer felt like a montage that’s only purpose was covering plotholes based on this new “twist” idea they came up with late in the game.

    It could have worked, but I think the execution storywise was very poor.

  16. “I think we need to look to the Koreans for consistancy these days”

    Amen, brother.

    Those Asian fellas make some fucked up movies and god bless ’em for it.

  17. The only comparison i was making was that it was French and it ended (SPOILER) up its own arse. I was really enjoying HT as the slasher it was up til the bit when she was hiding in the bathroom and she suddenly gave up looking for herself …if ye follow me. But with Martyrs i felt like i’d seen most of it before and the ending was one big unavoidable anti-climax. I think i’m bitter because the trailers for all these movies made me really look forward to them but apart from some nifty arterial artistry, and a distinct lack of cheese i’ve been left disappointed and with the feeling that they try too hard and take themselves far too seriously ….a feeling I didnt get from Wolf Creek for example.
    fils de putes

  18. A good movie but not my kind of horror. I really didn´t need all that long explicit torture segment.

  19. I thought this was unmitigated trash. Frontier(s), Inside, High Tension, and now this… I don’t know why France is trying so hard to ruin horror films.

    Vern, you should check out The Burrowers if you haven’t already. With that film and Mimic 3 (far better than it had any right to be), JT Petty is quickly becoming one of my favorite horror directors.

  20. I agree the review on the merits of the filmmaking and the potential of the director, but I just couldn’t get behind this one. I was digging the first half, but once things went down the rabbit hole, so to speak, it quickly lost me because I figured how it would turn out, and sure enough it failed to surprise me. The ending came off as a little too much of that “See how deep our gory movie is guys! Isn’t your mind BLOWN!” “Saw”- type stuff (but admittedly better) that I probably would have dug when I was 13. Not saying this isn’t a worthwhile flick, and I’ll certainly say that Martyrs is more than torture porn, but it just didn’t do it for me personally. I still have hope that the director can pull off a pretty great Hellraiser (which has a lot of the same themes, only explored to greater effect).
    Count me among the fans of Inside. That film had the same nightmarish relentlessness and a much better fucked up ending for my dollar.

  21. France is trying to ruin horror films, Lemmer?
    Don’t you mean Hollywood, with all those crap and
    forumalic sequels they have been releasing?

    No no, France and Spain are making far more interisting
    horror flicks in my opinion.

  22. Isn’t Man Bites Dog, French? That movie is rad.

  23. I guess I like this movie. I’m honestly not sure yet. The scene with the gentle acoustic guitar playing while the man beats Anna is very effective. I guess the themes it’s exploring are trancendence through suffering and the possible futility of existence. A couple of shots were, I think, referencing Carl Dreyers PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC if you’re interested Vern. In answer to an above question MARTYRS is about as brutal as the torture sequence in Mikkis’ IMPRINT.

  24. I watched this last night.True horror,I thought I was de-sensitized to violence on flm,I was wrong.This was truly dread,I felt for the people in this film.I didn’t feel the need to work it out or second guess it and was surprised and disorientated by it.I agree about Hellraiser it gave me the same feeling too,I havent felt this disturbed by a film for a good while.It’s not even about the gore as such,boy that was a serious dose.Puts all new horror films in perspective for me and shows certain nu school films up……………….and this man is doing hellraiser,blimey.

    Thanks for the watch it then read the review warning Vern,I appreciated it,respect.

  25. solongyoubastard

    May 5th, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Bunch of old rich fucks torturing and degrading innocent young women to get a glimpse of transmigration.

    It figures it’d be something like this.

    I did keep thinking about Inside while watching it. The two are very comparable. I also kept wondering what most people would find more effective: the blunt, merciless violence of Martyrs and Inside, or the gory-yet-more-subtle approach of something like Let the Right One In.

  26. Hey all, longtime reader / first time poster here.

    It’s been a long time since a horror movie left me feeling as conflicted as Martyrs. On the one hand, the film is stylish, well-acted, totally unpredictable and really delivers the goods so far as the gore. It’s not the goriest flick I’ve seen but the focus is on protracted suffering rather than just bursts of violence, and that made it much harder to take. Martyrs has a lot of strong ingredients and I’d recommend it without hesitation to the extreme horror crowd.

    On the other hand … I thought the movie hinted at some interesting ideas so far as religious groupthink and cult behavior, but it really didn’t explore any of them to great effect and I had the sense throughout that the writer didn’t really know what he was trying to say. The whole philosophical angle struck me as a weak attempt to add some depth to what basically amounted to torture porn. The motivations and ending also don’t stand up to much scrutiny, but I can’t write about it without divulging some spoilers.

    Martyrs had a very similar effect on me as Irreversible. I thought there was some great skill behind and in front of the camera, but both films weren’t much more than a geek show dressed up in pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo. Both films also left me feeling a little sullied and sort of insulted.

    Also, I don’t like to throw charges of misogyny around but part of what made me uncomfortable about Martyrs was its nonstop focus on female self-mutilation, suffering and degradation. The writers seemed to recognize this and even tried to come up with a reason why the victims are women, but it didn’t make a lick of sense. Come to think of it, the overall feeling of misanthropy and violence toward women also reminded me a lot of Irreversible. I expect garden-variety sexism in Friday the Thirteenth or whatever, but those movies don’t also ask me to take them seriously.

    The more I think about this movie, the more it pisses me off.

  27. Question about the ending.


    What do you suppose she said to Madmoiselle that would cause her to do what she did?

    If there is a heaven, she wouldn’t have did that. If there wasn’t it wouldn’t make sense that she would do that either.

    Then there’s the line, (We’re still in spoiler territory) “You don’t want to know.” That leads me to believe that the afterlife is hell or there is none, so maybe she just thought, “Fuck it.” and maybe even felt bad for torturing all those people for nothing.

    I don’t know? Cool movie though.


    Well, I think it’s like the briefcase in PULP FICTION, I don’t think there is an answer to what she said. But I think it’s possible that she didn’t do that out of disappointment about it or even wanting to hurry and get to the afterlife, but maybe just a further act of insanity that now that she knows this information that so many people have been terrorized for, she’s not even gonna share it with anyone. It’s like that guy in SUNSHINE who goes crazy on the ship. He’s on a mission to save all of humanity so what’s the worst thing he can do? Go crazy and stop them from saving humanity. They’ve convinced themselves that it’s worth hurtin all these people to find this out and then they get to that point and they’re back at square one.

    But yeah, I don’t know.

  29. It’s kind of like walking in on a punchline that everyone is laughing their asses off to, but no one will tell you the set up.

    I’ll have to watch it again. It seems more deliberate than a McGuffin, probably because of the build-up throughout the whole movie. The answer she gave and her reaction also made it seem like there was more to it.

    I took Pinbacker to be a personification of Satan or some religious type figure that Danny Boyle always likes to throw in his movies so all the craziness with him I accepted as symbolic rather than realistic, which this movie seemed to present itself as for the most part.

    Then again, the first girl kept having visions of that skinny chick, but even then, given the trauma she went through it would make sense that she would see things. Madmoiselle seemed pretty collected. Then again she never spoke with a Martyr before.

    Maybe she was told that by killing herself she would somehow become a martyr, which I think would make a lot of sense given that her character is so fascinated by them, I could buy that she would kill heself to become one.

    Or maybe she gave Madmoiselle a recipe for prisoner slop that is “to die for”. Zing!

    I hope there’s some deaf French speaking horror fans that can weigh in, since they could probably read lips. Although, when filming, she probably said something like, “she killed herself because it’s in the script”.

  30. Spoiler etc. Didn’t she say “Keep doubting”? I took that to mean their was nothing and it depressed her so that she couldn’t bear living anymore. I did read a guys interesting theory on dvdtalks forums that Anna told her something upsetting as a final act of revenge.

  31. Ya, it was something like “keep wondering.” I just saw it as a final attempt at a twist. Personally, I think people commit suicide so easily in movies that it’s a bigger twist not to do it.

    But then again, maybe Anna saw C’thulhu…

  32. My interpretation of “Keep doubting” is that, since this was a group of atheists, they were hoping that they would learn that there was no God, so they would not be punished in the afterlife. The Mademoiselle advises her compatriot to continue doubting the existence of hell because he would be unable to bear life if he knew what was waiting for him at the end of it.

    What a great movie. It’s completely fucked up, but not just for the sake of being fucked up, like other torture movies. The themes it was exploring simply wouldn’t work if it wasn’t as punishing as it is. There’s none of that Dave the Demon “Grrr, I’m a nihilist people are shit look at my tattoos in fear!” crap. All of the depravity in Martyrs has a purpose, and in its own weird way it achieves a kind of shattered grace.

    I wish she would have just left the damn house when she had the chance, though. I never understood what she thought she was accomplishing by hanging around. That was the one element that seemed like typical horror movie bullshit to me.

  33. I just want to thank you Mr. Majestyk, for that interpretation of the ending. I’ve been trying to make sense out of it since i saw it, but now i can say that I get it.

    But Vern’s comparison makes sense too. That guy from SUNSHINE definitely was martyr. Quite possibly a 5th stage, since he survived space, UV rays, and a loss of skin similar to the one in martyrs. Only he was crazy and had enough energy to go places. Not to be sexist, but this is probably why they don’t martyr Men. Martyring women will make you kill yourself, but doing that to men will get you killed.

  34. I read the following interpretation of the ending on IMDB and I find it to be the most persuasive. In fact, it has caused me to go from viewing this movie as terrible and disturbing to beautiful and eye-opening. A bit long, but worth it:

    When the camera zooms into the “martyr”‘s eyes, we see her staring into the blankness of the void, as it were. Before reaching this state, whatever one takes it to be, she imagines Lucy asking her, “Why are you no longer afraid?” Of course, Lucy is dead; we are left to assume that in some way she herself is puzzled by the increasing degree to which she is able to dissociate her mind from the atrocities to which she is being ritually subjected. But the void she sees is not a “nothingness” devoid of “higher” meaning; it is an awareness of the awesomely limited role any individual and his or her suffering play in the grand structure and on the awesome scale of the universe as a whole. The images the director shows us appear astral or celestial, almost like a star’s penumbra or the ephemeral nighttime sky’s presentation of a distant arm of our rotating galaxy. At a time of intense personal suffering (as opposed to, especially, a time at which one is enjoying a sense of purpose or accomplishment), real peace or at least a release from pain can be achieved through reflection about the ultimate insignificance of our plight as individuals in a universe within which our entire galaxy, not to mention out own lives, is at best only an infinitesimal part. So what the martyr sees when freed (or forced through brutal torture) to transcend her material existence and so exist only on a spiritual plane is indeed profound; but its profundity is not the kind of revelation a Catholic mind would seek. It does imply that we mean nothing and that our actions mean nothing on a universal scale, but it leaves open the possibility (indeed: fact) that individual humans and their actions are of vital and central importance to other humans.

    So, our martyr whispers something like, “My suffering is pointless, for I am nothing except a human who has lived among other humans on a small planet in a universe of infinite grandeur and scale. My material life is over, but this affects little now that I have been forced out of it by your insane attempts to contact a higher power that does not exist; there is a higher existence to be sure, but it is only comprehensible in terms of an understanding of nature that stretches through space-time far, far beyond the narrow expanse in which we exist. Here, now, for humans…there is only the value of humanity and there is only the meaning that our own valuation of ourselves and others provides. You have beaten that value out of me; I am nothing now, aside from some matter that is best understood on this larger scale. My suffering is over, for you have removed any humanity – and thus any values or concerns I might have had – from me. But in the process you have violated all that could be of meaning to humans in this life, and there is no existence for the human soul after this life has been stripped away from us. So your experiments have been nothing more than exercises in brutality, pursued in the name of a non-existent God under the assumption of a false metaphysics. I have seen what lies beyond, and it is grand. But your efforts in this life have been pointless; as a human, which is all you ever could or will be, you have been a villainous murderer; on a grander scale, you are just some matter or energy locally concentrated in a small region of space-time; the “you” you think of is nothing at all, really, and is as much a part of a false ontology as the god in whose name you confusedly believe to exist”

    A speech like that would have the effect of shattering the faith of Mademoiselle, for she has assumed that the upward, vacant stare of the martyrs eyes represents a deep insight into what lies beyond. And she has indeed succeeded, at long last, in creating a genuine (communicative) martyr. But the news “from beyond” is very bad for poor Mademoiselle. When she asks E. if he can imagine an afterlife and he demurs, unable to offer a meaningful response, her advice to “Keep doubting” or to “Doubt” is a weak admonition from a defeated soul. Imagine the pain of realizing that the suffering one has caused has been futile, and that the only person capable of telling you the truth you have been seeking can say no more than “You were wrong. We, as humans, only matter in the context of our own physical lives, and all you have done is ruin the lives of many; there is nothing you have achieved but pain, and though your martyrs may have been left with beating hearts and an upward glare, you have witnessed nothing more than biological life improbably persisting beyond the fragile boundaries of a human’s capacity to find meaning therein. Far from finding meaning, you have instead robbed many of the only meaning that we could ever hope to have. You are not on a quest for meaning; you have been depriving people of meaning for 17 bloody years.”

  35. I saw this movie about three weeks ago and it’s still fucking with me. I honestly couldn’t tell you if I’m glad I saw it or not, the only thing I’m sure of is that it’s an all time great and easily the best movie of it’s type.

    I never really thought about it before but I’ve got a feeling film historians in the future are gonna view the current wave of “torture porn” movies as a pretty significant indication of the mood of our times. If the 70’s horror movies like halloween and TCM were about peoples fear of weirdo loners and the 80’s horror movies by the likes of Chronenberg were about our fear of AIDS then it seems like todays movies are about our fear of the elite. I think that the last ten years have really cemented in people a deep distrust of the ruling class of society.

    I thought the Hostel movies were pretty good at the time but in retrospect seem even more on the money. A year or so after Hostel 2 comes out, a movie about normal people being tortured by rich guys, these same types of guy almost sink the entire fucking economy. And these movies prove that somewhere deep inside we knew it was going on all along.

    So that brings me to Martyrs which I think takes some of the same themes but better articulates our fears. It ain’t so much that we think rich people are just plain evil, we’re shit scared that we’re gonna get thrown to the dogs because the elite think it’s for the greater good. In other words, we’re scared that we’re gonna become the broken eggs in someone else’s omelette.

    heh, I just noticed the parallels with WATCHMEN, which was written 20 years ago, I guess all this has been a long time coming.

  36. I don’t see a review for it so I thought I would let you know – you should watch the French film Inside. Its not as hit you over the head with a brieze block like Martyrs but it is the best suspense horror film of the last ten years (blows it a little bit towards the end and you will know the bit I mean.)

  37. Nabroleon Dynamite:

    *spoiler alert*

    Continuing our discussion from The Woman comments..

    So as far as I could tell the film was about the (im)possibility of dealing with the unspeakable horrors of the past. Lucie believed she was being pursued by the demon of guilt for abandoning the other girl, but it was really just the overall trauma that she couldn’t get over, and vengeance didn’t help pacify the ghost.

    I was with that. Then there’s this other film at the end about reaching transcendence through suffering. In effect in sort of undoes the first half in that it says, “Lucie didn’t get it, she should have embraced her suffering and became a Martyr.”

    I think this dude, writer/director Pascal Laugier, wanted to do the Irreversible thing where the film, in spite of having put you through hell, ends up in some beatified, transcendent territory. Except in Irreversible, well, he’s able to do that because the movie takes place backwards! The idyllic stuff happened BEFORE the horrible shit, not somehow as a result of it.

    Martyrs is in the unenviable position of saying something like “I know I know, it’s so horrible….but it’s also beautiful, don’t you see?” Most people look back on American Beauty and recognize in retrospect that Alan Ball was feeding us a bit of a line of shit by saying “OMG this plastic bag is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I HAVE EVER FILMED.” I feel similarly towards Martyrs, though several degrees more perturbed given the plastic bag in the wind vs. girl being flayed alive issue.

    And furthermore the fact of Mademoiselle’s reaction to the Martyr’s revelation only strengthens the idea that the movie is pro-torturing people. Anna is so powerful and divine at this point that she can kill with a whisper. She won. Because she was tortured. ?

    I have more insights comparing this film with the pro-torture stance of Mel Gibson’s three films, but they come off as baiting/trolling so I will annoyingly mention them and not elaborate.

  38. nabroleon dynamite

    February 19th, 2012 at 10:29 am

    @Renfield. Your views here are interesting, yet I didn’t draw any of those conclusions from the flim.

    You seemed to really enjoy the first half, I did as well, but there were some things that pulled me out and felt like a big cheat. (i.e. if the demon girl was imaginary who ripped her back to shreads?)

    I didn’t get a torture is beautiful message at all. In fact just the opposite. Torture is horrific. I think Pascal showed that vividly.


  39. nabroleon dynamite

    February 19th, 2012 at 10:49 am

    (Cont) Madamoiselle told Etienne to keep doubting life after death. That tells me that what she was told is that there is Nothing after death.

    Madamoiselle took her own life because she didn’t have the guts to tell her followers the cold, hard truth.

    Isn’t it interesting that her followers were damn near 100% elderly? The elderly are the prime victims of religious dogma.

    Notice that Madamoiselle even removed her make up before she killed herself. A beautifully nice little touch.

    But I’m an Atheist, so maybe my view of the events is prejudiced. Either way it’s an excellent movie to discuss.

  40. Interesting comments. I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent and hopefully bring it back around.

    You know, I was raised a strict atheist. Like many young white men in the 20-21st century, I had to eventually rebel against my parent’s ideology and look for spirituality. I look at that “Scale of the Universe” flash animation that was posted in the potpourri thread, and it occurs to me that really anything is possible. Describing in no uncertain detail the specificities and exploits of a particular god seems totally fallacious to me. Why not that giant alien playing marbles at the end of Men in Black? Why is one a more likely interpretation than the other? No greater beings whatsoever (atheism) also strikes me as unnecessarily specific, claiming to know about shit you simply could never know. I don’t consider agnosticism to mean that you are undecided, the strict definition is that you believe it CAN NEVER be proven one way or the other.

    I suspect it’s largely a matter of utility. I’m working a 12-step program right now, which places a great deal of emphasis on transcendence through a Higher Power. Steps have been taken over the years to make this HP non-denominational…the phrase “god of your understanding” is frequently referenced. But it needs to be a “caring and loving” HP in order to have utility for the program. Clearly Jesus and his pops meet this definition more than the marble alien.

    My atheist upbringing, however, leads me to gravitate towards stuff that can be observed or inferred through rational means. When you consider, for example, that taking a micro or macrocosmic view of the universe leads you to the same image: a shitload of empty space speckled with clusters of particles (the particles are either neurons and protons or galaxy clusters, depending on which end of the scale you are examining). That shit blows my mind. I find it to be transcendent, and indicative of basically infinite possibility, although I have yet to work out why it would be caring/loving.

    So what I’m getting at is, I have always (and particularly recently) had a proclivity towards deriving some sort of spiritual fulfillment from stuff that people usually object to about atheism. I don’t think atheism begets a lack of spirituality, I don’t associate the vastness of the scientific universe with cold indifference or pointlessness. It gets me excited and elated. It’s liberating and majestic. So I think this is key to our different interpretation of Martyrs. You are saying she realized atheism was the truth of it, and that this was cold and indifferent, and it caused Madam to kill herself, whereas this was not an interpretation I was likely to arrive at given the thoughts I was bringing to the table on atheism/lack of afterlife in general. I found that visual nature of the final scenes beatify her quite a bit, and indicate an impulse towards the transcendental. Perhaps the beatified manner in which we perceive her towards the end, as her suffering reaches its zenith, reflects the bias of Mademoiselle, who must believe that such transcendence is occurring to justify her crimes against humanity? In other words the film is not taking for granted one perspective or another, and the visual language of the film is simply serving the perspective of the characters. This I find quite acceptable and makes me far more comfortable with the ending of the film.

    Yeah man, good stuff to talk about, I think I have come around quite a bit due to our discussion. Thanks for responding.

  41. *neutrons, not neurons

  42. nabroleon dynamite

    February 23rd, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Renfield. I’m dead tired fam, but hopefully I can respond properly on Sunday.

    I wanted to ask you though if you’ve read “The End Of Faith” by Sam Harris?

    Some of your atheistic spirituality seems in line with Sam’s views in that book.

  43. Many feel atheist do not believe in anything, when atheism is actually the belief that God does not exist.
    To believe in God is deemed to have ‘faith.’ It’s often deemed that Atheist have no faith.
    To begin the journey into atheism, one must ‘Doubt’ their Faith of God.

    Mademoiselle’s words of “keep doubting” were telling Etienne that she will not reveal the testimony. Then killed herself from the awe that she too, knew the truth. The testimony was world shattering for Ms. Defarge, especially after the testimony was crystal clear, with no other interpretation. The cult wanted to know, since atheists don’t have faith, doing experiments is the only way to determine the truth of the afterlife.

    We don’t really know the testimony.
    I interpreted that the testimony validated the existence of God in the other world or afterlife.

  44. Wrong. We don’t believe there is no god, we know. Atheism means “without god”. We have never even considered that there exists a supernatural entity of any kind. If we had, we’d be agnostics.

  45. reading all these comments, i think a lot of you misinterpreted the exchange.

    she asked E, “can you imagine what comes after death?”
    the reply is “no…, i….” basically saying he could not imagine
    her response “keep doubting” is keep doubting that he can’t imagine it… not that he is doubting there is no afterlife.

    i took it as since she was the cult leader, the act of killing her self would make more of a statement than communicating it in words… meaning whatever happens after is a good thing.

  46. Chopper Sullivan

    June 3rd, 2012 at 2:41 am

    I don’t buy that. I think it doesn’t matter. No knowledge of life after death could justify the cruelty. You find out it’s paradise? Great, you could have just waited and not flayed a woman. You find out there’s nothing? Even worse. There is no reason, not even divine knowledge, that justified the actions of those creeps. I think the old broad realized that once she found the truth.

  47. Well this one sure put the old grey cells to good use.

    I tend to agree with Chopper Sullivan. Anna caused Mademoiselle to face the futiliy of the atrocious acts her and hers have committed through the years for whatever reason and this made her kill herself (yet another cruelty this time against her cult members) But then again they were all very cruel. The family in the beginning was unbeliavable. And they did all this with kids in the house. Still it was horrible for me to watch them get shot (I have realised that Lucie was telling the truth – but I never saw the crazy Mademoiselle etc.) I just kept yelling, “call the police!” “make them do a through search!”


    Here, I’ll make this trite piece of shit more interesting. The old bitch shoots herself at the end. The End.

  49. Are you going to review the American remake?

  50. Vern, Watching this again tonight after many years (spoilers for a movie that came out a decade ago) I wondered if Mademoiselle did what she did because she learned there was nothing after death or there was and she wanted to get there. Probably the latter. Still love movies like this that let you think.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>