“It’s so easy to create a victim, young lady, so easy”
In recent years there has been a number of successful, popular horror films made in France that have been classed in the category of “The New French Extremity” Films like Haute Tension, Ils, Frontiers & A L’interieur are examples of this style of film. Martyrs is without doubt the best of all of these movies. This is some achievement as Haute Tension is a wonderfully taut & chilling horror movie with a stunning twist & Frontiers, A L’interieur, La Horde & In My Skin are all good movies. With Martyrs, writer/director Pascal Laugier has created a bleak, disturbing, harrowing masterpiece. A shocking & deeply affecting movie that by the time the end credits start to roll has you, the viewer utterly shocked & stunned.
The film opens with a young girl called Lucie running from a disused building after being held captive there & subjected to lengthy bouts of physical abuse. The case is never solved by the police & Lucie is placed in an orphanage where she develops a strong friendship with Anna, another child in the orphanage . Lucie confides in Anna that she is being terrorized by a horrible woman covered in scars. The movie moves on 15yrs when Lucie believes she has found the family responsible for her imprisonment & torture. Before calling Anna, Lucie decides to pay the family a visit at breakfast, with a loaded shotgun. For Lucie & Anna the true horror is only just beginning.
Martyrs is a film with some truly horrific acts of brutality & violence, along with a huge amount of bloodshed. But to look at the movie in those kind of simplistic terms is to do it a great disservice. The first half of the movie is a shocking but moving piece of psychological horror. Laugier takes his time establishing mood & character, leading the audience in one direction, focusing on Lucie’s mental state & Anna’s love for her friend. It is wonderfully acted & tautly directed. About two-thirds of the way into the film & it suddenly changes to something far, far darker, nihilistic & shocking. From then on Martyrs becomes a brutally disturbing work of sheer horror. Relentless & unflinching, Martyrs will truly shock you to the core. I cannot even begin to describe what happens as it gives away too much of the story. The emotional power of the movie becomes intense. The imagery is haunting & disturbing, leaving you, the viewer with feelings of revulsion & deep sorrow. Pascal Laugier along with his two lead actresses Morjana Alaoui (Anna) & Mylene Jampanoi (Lucie) have created something truly unique & special. The reason Martyrs disturbs so much is because Alaoui & Jampanoi bring a true sense of believability to their characters. Laugier’ s screenplay brings out every emotional nuance of Anna & Lucie. The film also looks wonderful thanks to Stephane Martin’s cinematography. The movie’s ending is one that will have you thinking days after seeing it. I could bleat on about just how good this film is for hours but I would run the risk of giving away too much of the plot. This movie deserves your attention. This movie is a prime example of why I love these films & spend time on this site. This film could never be made in Hollywood, it is far too bold & disturbing in its agenda. There have been rumours of a US remake & already the talk is of a less nihilistic more uplifting film. Don’t put up with some watered down, insipid remake, watch the original & experience the true power of the story.
Martyrs is, without a shadow of a doubt one of the finest movies ever made. An emotionally scarring nihilistic masterpiece that will deeply disturb you. By no means is this a film for everyone, Martyrs is only for those viewers with a strong constitution & a high tolerance for on-screen violence & brutality. A must see for those who can take it.