The 2008 French-Canadian film Martyrs directed by Pascal Laugier was mind-blowing. That was it, I have no other words.
Kidding, but really, I was left speechless after watching it… like, what just happened? I got shaken so much with the first half of the movie, focusing on the adventures of Anna (Morjana Alaoui) and Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi) together. The movie started out so strong, scaring the wits out of me when Lucie was shown to be terrorized by a disfigured woman. This woman reminded me a lot like the ghosts in several films like the 2004 film The Grudge, the 2002 film The Ring or the 2004 Thai film Shutter; women with long hair, face could not almost be seen, frequently haunting people. But in Martyrs, the woman terrorizing Lucie was more intense: she never left Lucie for years, and she was hurting only a single target and that is Lucie. Of course, this was all in Lucie’s mind after leaving behind another woman in the place where they were getting abused and tortured. Which made it even more haunting. I guess this could be a really extreme case of mental health problems to the point that the ghost of your past could drive you to kill yourself. Really eerie, and it even makes the audience think about that.
Lucie killed herself and now all of the focus was on Anna; sort of like a final girl. She did not have a ghost in her mind and she was even the voice of reason for Lucie. At this point I did not know what to expect anymore. And at this point I think the film is preparing all of us for what is to come—okay everyone please breathe there would be more creepy as hell scenes—but it was really unthinkable for me what the movie had to offer after the Lucie and ghost haunting her until death stint.
Okay I might have used the word creepy a countless times already, but the latter half of the movie was outright creepy. As hell. Chills all over my body kind of creepy. But the good king.
The joint themes Science and Religion in the form of the organization that was looking for the martyrs… unusual. Odd. What the hell. How even? Again, I had been left speechless and I am not quite sure how to describe and organize my thoughts in this blog post. I am not even sure how to analyze this film…
Anna, being the final girl, was almost heroic, saving another girl from the torturing facility where they were. Then, she had to go through another round of hardship, after having been caught by the organization that was looking for martyrs. At this point, she seemed helpless but she emerged heroic once again (at least for the religious) after having been martyred. A martyr in the literal sense (someone killed for religious beliefs) and in the organization’s sense (having reached a certain level of nirvana or have seen what comes after death).
But anyway, I can imagine the kind of controversy the organization would stir up in the real world. Although some may believe in their cause, others still would condemn their methods. The meeting place of science and religion can be quite messy as exemplified here, and the extent of what people could do just for their faith could be anything. Even so far as torturing and abusing and skinning young people?! Well, the religious could not be blamed for their religion and the practices they procure even though they seem off and evil… or could they? It is one of the questions that Martyrs made me ask myself. And the question of death—yes, it is the most certain aspect of our lives as humans. But what comes after it, we ask? Martyrs succeeded in being both frightening and philosophical. And I think different people would have different takes on these questions, no doubt.
I would like to expound on that and devote this paragraph to the Mademoiselle who had killed herself after talking with Anna about what she had seen. Mademoiselle just might have been too excited to die and see for herself. Maybe she was enticed. Maybe she got tired of life. My opinion is she got enticed to see what came after death. Religion again had brought her to this point. What may seem absolutely foolish to an outsider may be a big deal to the religious. To what extent do we call out the religious for being that way? Do we outsiders even have the right to?
This horror film had evoked such questions in me and I loved that, going beyond the scary to engage us in discourse. The horror genre has yet again become ambiguous. The feelings of horror had gone beyond scaring us, it has become the feeling of not knowing what will be in store for you after death. And that just boggles me, making me curious but at the same time, hopeful. Perhaps just like Mademoiselle, but I would like to wait for the right time to, um, see it.