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Lucie, a 10 year old girl, is found wandering in the streets, bruised and bloodied. Unable to say who did this to her, or why, she is placed in a hospital where she meets Anna, another young girl who had been abused. Fifteen years later, with Anna s help, Lucie sets out to get revenge on her attackers. When she believes she has found the couple who abused her, she confronts them ...and that is when the terror truly begins.
Avoid, if you can, reading anything about Martyrs before viewing--this ultra-intense Canadian-French shocker benefits from discovering its horrors cold. In that spirit, we'll be discreet, except to note that only the most hardcore patrons of 21st-century torture cinema need apply for this one. A prologue depicts the escape of a child from an apparent house of enslavement, and one thinks of notorious real-life cases of people keeping children locked away in basements. But writer-director Pascal Laugier has a larger idea in mind, which we begin to discern when the story skips ahead 15 years. The kidnapped girl, now played by Mylene Jampanoi, is bent on a violent rampage of her own; her lifelong friend and minder (Morjana Alaoui) comes upon a bloody scene too late. The film takes too long to get to the next revelation, but when it does, a series of secret chambers begins to unfold in the narrative, and you might just feel your head spinning (if not your gorge rising). It would be inaccurate to call this pleasant, or even entertaining, but Laugier does at least have a serious purpose and some interesting ideas. The horrifying images he creates, however, raise the question of directorial judgment gone haywire. Give him credit, though: the DVD of Martyrs includes a brief introduction by Laugier in which he (good-humoredly) apologizes for the movie--fair warning for the faint of heart. --Robert Horton
Chroniques Organic: The Making of MARTYRS
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Top Customer Reviews
The problem is that, for most people, they are simply NOT going to be anticipating what this film actually IS, as opposed to what they've been led to BELIEVE it is. Namely, though it contains many ASPECTS typical of the genre, 'Martyrs' is NOT really a "horror film" in the usual sense.
Don't get me wrong, though -- the film certainly IS horrifying at times, on a number of different levels. And it has a kind of nightmare poetry which continues to haunt me.
'Martyrs' also manages to convey an overwhelming sense of cumulative dread and a hellishly pervasive sense of cold, heartless, systematically calculating evil. But it actually has a lot more in common with Gaspar Noe's uncompromising 'Irreversible' and the dark lyricism of Franju's 'Eyes Without A Face' than it does with films like 'Saw' or 'Hostel'.
For, while it does have some extremely disturbing violence and gore, it's somewhat less extreme in that respect than either 'High Tension' or 'Inside' -- two other notable examples of the new wave of French horror cinema.
But 'Martyrs' affected me far more than any of the above-named films (excepting 'Irreversible' and 'Eyes...' ), because of the IDEAS being dealt with and because of Pascal Laugier's remarkably artful handling of his material, aided tremendously by the harrowing, raw-nerved excellence of the acting, as well as the superb cinematography, editing, music, and make-up effects.
Indeed, 'Martyrs' is an "art film" in many ways. In fact, at a couple points it actually elicited tears from me -- not my typical response to most horror films -- as well as a few genuinely appalled exclamations of "Oh my God... Oh my God...", such was the level of my empathy and identification with the main characters and their ordeal.
In fact, it was this aspect of the film which enabled me to get past what would otherwise have been a big stumbling block for me, in terms of conventional movie logic -- i.e. the critical caveat of illogical behavior on the part of the characters when faced with a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation and NOT getting the hell OUT of there! In fact, at a very key point in the narrative, not only do the two main characters refuse to extricate themselves from a very risky and potentially dangerous locale, they positively LINGER there for what seems like DAYS!
Now, normally this would have had me crazy and screaming in frustration at the seeming stupidity or obtuseness of the characters. But, miraculously, in the case of 'Martyrs' I hardly even registered any of this because of the particular relationship dynamic of Lucie and Anna and their unique personal/psychological histories. In other words, given the very particular qualities of these two women, a specific case could be made for what would otherwise have seemed infuriatingly inappropriate behavior.
I find it both apt and reassuring that Laugier has referred to his film as the "anti-'Funny Games'", referencing Michael Haneke's deeply unpleasant, repellently grueling exercise in audience participation/endurance. For while 'Funny Games' was also not a horror film in the exploitative/commercial sense, neither did it have, for me, the inherent spiritual aspects or, dare I say, compassion, which make me willing to return to 'Martyrs', whereas I never feel myself eager to play more 'Funny Games'.
But, more than anything, 'Martyrs' lingers in my mind as a deeply sad, disturbing, and ultimately moving meditation on the theme of pain and transcendence. And though I can see many viewers recoiling from the experience, disgusted by its brutal savagery and depressed and offended by its seeming nihilism (with the emphasis on "seeming"), I find that the film's intriguing ambiguities and moral questions make for a rich cinematic tapestry, reflective of both heaven and hell. And yet, paradoxically, it is perhaps the film's unnerving ability to convey a world of bottomless evil and merciless cruelty that kept me from giving 'Martyrs' a full five stars. Almost as though a part of me would feel guilty in doing this -- as if that would be akin to giving my implicit endorsement or tacit approval of the film's pitch-black heart of darkness.
Perhaps, Mr. Laugier, you did your job a bit TOO well!
Be that as it may, clearly this film has a lot more on its mind than simply grossing out or traumatizing its audiences, though it certainly managed that, as well, during some of its controversial festival screenings. Yet I would still hesitate to recommend it to most people I know. 'Martyrs' is, decidedly and emphatically, NOT a film for everyone.
But, for those looking to be challenged as well as shaken -- for those willing to be taken to deeply uncomfortable places and shown terrible things in new and unexpected ways -- for those yearning to FEEL a visceral response again after years of mindless, numbing "movie-violence"... For all these people 'Martyrs' will be a welcome, if not necessarily pleasant experience, leaving them with something to actually THINK about once the end credits have rolled.
A very sad postscript to a very sad film:
Benoit Lestang, a close friend of the director, and the man who contributed the film's jaw-droppingly powerful special make-up effects, committed suicide shortly after the film's completion. He did get to see the film prior to his death and apparently was proud of his work and moved to tears by the film. As to the specific reasons for his tragic decision, little has been spoken or written about that. And, given the film's specific subject matter, one could all too easily be drawn into the temptation of making inappropriate connections and drawing conclusions, which I shall assiduously avoid.
Laugier himself has been very candid about his own personal feelings, both in regard to the emotional devastation of losing his friend, as well as the fact that the creative genesis of 'Martyrs' sprang from a long period of Laugier's own depression. And he has indicated that, in some ways, the film was perhaps his response to that depression -- partially expiating it through channeling his own darkness and pain into that of the film's theme and characters.
Suffice it to say, 'Martyrs' will provide a lasting and worthy final monument to Mr. Lestang's extraordinary gifts as a supremely talented artist and craftsman. And it is precisely that artistry, in conjunction with that of Laugier and the rest of his remarkable team, that resulted in startling images of strange and terrible beauty. Images which, like the film itself, continue to linger in the mind long after the final curtain.
Peace be with you, Benoit.
In the opening shot, a young girl, Lucie, is seen running for her life. She is clearly traumatized and appears to have been abused. Lucie (who is portrayed by Mylène Jampanoï as an adult) is taken to an orphanage and is discovered she had experienced years of physical abuse although there are no signs of it being sexual. At the orphanage, Lucie befriends another troubled girl, Anna (portrayed by Morjana Alaoui as an adult). Fifteen years later, Lucie, who is still severely scarred from her childhood experience decides to take revenge on the people who abused her and one day she storms in to the home of her alleged perpetrators armed with a shotgun and a mind full of vengeance. When Anna is summoned by Lucie for help, Anna's world takes a drastic turn and the minute she steps foot inside that house, she is one step closer to becoming ... a ...?
"Martyrs" is indeed a rare horror film. It is not the only film in the genre to display shocking scenes of human depravity and human suffering and outlandish gore but somehow it stands out amongst the many in the unpleasant torture genre. The film has multiple layers. Just when you think you know where the story is going, it takes a steep turn, and just when you think you have it figured out again ... nope, there is yet another turn and despite the outrageousness depicted on screen, the characters, specifically the 2 female leads, are fleshed out enough and likeable enough that we are totally immersed in their story and their survival and it makes their on screen misery that much harder to watch. The performances from the 2 female leads is riveting. Both Jampanoï and Alaoui show strong, gut wrenching emotions, never losing focus and the film's tone is consistently dark. So much so that there is very little room for humor here and even the 2 leading actresses' obvious physical beauty takes a back seat to the absolute brutality taking place on screen. This film is an overwhelming and brutal showcase of how ugly and visceral life can be for some and how rarely, is life's journey a pleasant one. Not to mention how destructive and diabolical man can be. The film is outrageous, however when reading about missing women who have been held captive for years, the most recent case involving the 3 missing woman in Cleveland, you come to the realization that this type of monstrous evil does exist and makes these types of film far more frightening than those slasher flicks with a walking dead killer holding a machete as the villian.
I have to admit that I read most of the reviews of this film. Considering its reputation, I felt I really needed to prepare myself for what I was going to watch and although I do not recommend this approach to all, I am really glad I did. I went into this expecting hell on screen, and although what I got out of it met my expectations, I did expect far worse so it lessened the punch. I guess the point of this is, if you go in expecting more, you may end up not being totally blind-sided by the disturbing images displayed and like some reviewers noted, you really have to be in the mood for this piece as it digs really deep into the darker side of the human condition.
Did I enjoy this film? I guess ... maybe? "Enjoy" is not an appropriate word here since no one can really claim they enjoy watching the suffering of others. I watch horror films because I like venturing into the darker side of things, I like exploring the unknown and unraveling mysteries and sometimes I want to be sucker punched. However after the light comes back on in a darkened movie theatre, or I turn off my DVD/BluRay after watching a horror film, with the exception of a few, most don't usually linger at the back of my mind for countless hours or days after viewing or leave me questioning the sheer brutality of man. This film did so I guess it is safe to state the film did its job. It is not for everyone but for those who want to witness something out of the ordinary, even by horror standards, and have a high tolerance for on-screen violence and torture, "Martyrs" is recommended but be warned, you may not be prepared to handle the tale it tells.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As a movie, I give it 3/5 stars. Very well acted, story leaves something to be desired but well-paced and intriguing (especially the first 2/3 of the movie),...Read more
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