Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
What's it about
Lucie goes through hell…and inadvertently takes her best friend there with her in this haunting opus of violence and deprivation.
Is it good movie?
Lucie is a hot mess: abused as a child at the hands of ruthless and cold-blooded strangers, she escaped only to be plagued by lifelong visions of a grotesque specter that attacks her whenever it gets the chance, leaving her body a bruised temple of scars. When she believes she has finally found the people who perpetrated her abuse fifteen years prior, she reacts in an explosively murderous fashion. Along for the ride is her best, and only friend, Anna, who is a shade less insane, and as such is horrified by the carnage. Things only escalate when she hesitantly puts forth that maybe Lucie is wrong about the people she so insists are guilty. And the confrontation between the two of them is only the first third of the film! From there it is an endless spiral of misery and pain that will leave you a bigger squirming mess than anyone in the film.
Man, I gotta tell you, Martyrs went up my ass and built a summer home there. It may sound strange to say that the horrific predation that goes on in this film is elegant, but I mean elegance in the truest form of the word: devoid of artifice; brevity of communication to only the most important data. When shotgun blasts tear big holes in motherf*ckers, there are no slo-mo scenes or pusillanimous cutaways. There is merely the type of offensive violence that makes you swear you can smell the acrid odor of cordite and the meaty stench of spilled blood.
And when I said that the misery and pain were an endless spiral, that wasn’t entirely accurate: in some weird variation on quantum tunneling, at some point on your ride down the spiral you cross the Rubicon into something approaching beauty. This film is not for the wanks who think Saw and Hostel are the heights of brutality and depravity. Martyrs makes those franchises seem like water balloon fights in the land of Care-A-Lot. You will not take morbid delight in watching the excruciating things that happen to innocent people in this film. You will sweat and shake and grip the arms of your chair, and by the end you will reach a sublime state of maybe not understanding, but at least of acceptance of how the world can work the way it does. Unless you’re an idiot. In which case, there’s not much I can tell you.
If you couldn’t tell, a big shout out to the cast and crew are necessary at this point. Pascal Laugier wrote a script somehow both chaotic and methodical, and actually managed to convey these two disparate elements with his pinpoint direction, while the others involved did not run screaming from his madness but actually put 110% of themselves into helping to realizing the goal of a movie that regular people would never imagined anyone would want to exist. I am not a regular person, and so I stand in awe of their mad achievement.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen. Picture is excellent, even when you wish it wasn't.
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital, in French with English subtitles. There is also an English-dubbed track, but you're the aforementioned idiot if you listen to it. The ridiculous translation and performances totally sap the energy out of key scenes in the film.
Aside from a trailer, the sole extra on this disc is a making of piece, called Chroniques Organic, but what a making of piece it is. Nearly an hour long, it covers a huge amount of ground. Everything from intimate moments with the director to footage of shooting some of the more violent and messy scenes. It did me some good to see that no one really got hurt. Well, Morjana Alaoui did take a nasty fall and give herself three hairline fractures, thus holding up production for a month, but that was an accident when they weren't filming. It wasn't when she was being brutalized onscreen.
Martyrs is a brilliant film that will stay with you for days to come. Yes, it is horrifically violent and deeply discomfiting, but it is never exploitative: it has a purpose and a design. It will reach down your throat and yank your guts out and show them to you, and make you think about them. My personal opinion is that no home is complete without this disc.