Monday, September 21, 2009

martyrs [2008]

i don't know what to make of this film. after reading some rave reviews, and a few simple accolades, online i checked out this most recent contribution to french new-wave horror. oh the french do it differently alright. french cinema is now embracing hardcore horror as it had not done before. the results are a rather mixed bag. more likely the young french horror directors, such as alexandre aja who helmed the vicious but beautiful haute tension, and this movie's creator pascal laugier, are weened from '70s and '80s horror pics from the u.s. and italy and are now creating movies that can piss off and offend just about everybody.

ostensibly a revenge flick martyrs takes its title seriously. laugier likes to keep the viewer off-balance so it is difficult to keep abreast with the narration. the theme is of martyrdom but it takes nearly 2/3ds of the film to see why and how. and when the how is explained i simply just wanted to blow up my tv set in frustration. seriously flawed i think in its conceit it would've played better if the filmmaker decided to keep this a tale of one young woman's revenge against a couple that had imprisoned her and tortured her when she was a young girl.

still, i like the idea of tantalizing the viewer with notions of religious purity and a baptism by fire. if i sound willfully obscure in describing this movie so be it. also there's something creepy about the newer french horror filmmakers obsessions with women. misogynistic? that might be a bit harsh, after all, most genre filmmakers, as advanced by film critic carol clover, have long upturned traditional social roles for women. these filmmakers create women who are strong, flawed, fully-fleshed, who are both victims and victors.

which might be what laugier is doing here. at any rate, the movie is an assault on the senses. beautifully photographed, superbly acted, and steadfast in its editing, i can not not fault the film for these qualities. when you get to the end, if you've not turned the movie off in utter nausea, you will feel like not only do you need a shower, but you also need to head to the e.r. because of the beating your mind has just taken.

some of the critics charge laugier of creating more torture porn. i don't agree. there is a methodology at work here that is absent in say the saw or hostel movies. one might even argue that laugier made a work critical of catholicism while endowed deeply into catholic mysticism. still, i'm troubled by the fetishism of women and the role of women in this movie. even still, if the movie begins and ends with the violent acts of strong women the very notion as explored by laugier of creating a class of martyrdom for women that prickles my skin.

see it for yourselves. but i gotta warn you that it is a hard view to watch. for this film is very like clive barker's hellraiser, on steroids. laugier knows his beloved genre well. stick to the end credits and see which famous italian filmmaker he dedicates his film to. you'll still have time to throw up then call an ambulance for your battered soul.



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