Monday, August 3, 2009

Fucked-Up Movie Night!

You don't know where this movie is going. That's a pretty bold statement. In this day of gory horror flicks, fans have been either numbed to most of what special effects crews can churn out, have learned to expect what is on the next frame of celluloid or have spoiled themselves with the invasiveness of the Internet. Well, I am in the hopes that if you have happened to hear about the 2008 movie Martyrs that you haven't heard much besides, "This movie is fucked up!"

Having listened to an episode of the Gentleman's Guide to Midnite Cinema I learned of the movie through another listeners voice mail to the podcast berating the Pascal Laugier film. The man voiced his opinion that the film was trash and needed to be discarded as pornography. As having been witness to violence himself he poses the thought that no one needs to see this film as it depicts what could morally be construed as garbage and in having watched it one is perpetuating violence upon women and fellow human beings. The hosts of the show rightfully defend their stance as film watchers and advocates of free speech. Violence aside, Martyrs is a fairly competent film. Yes, it depicts violence upon "helpless" women and their childhood counterparts but it goes further than that and explores what is rarely posited in mainstream consciousness; that the surrender to and acceptance of pain can lead to pleasure and other planes of consciousness.

The film arrives at this hypothesis in a most deliberate and graphic way but if one can get around that and just think about it on a deeper level one can arrive where the film is daring you to go. I truly doubt that Pascal Laugier means in his optional introduction to the unrated DVD that he dares you to hate him for the film that he has written and directed. He also goes so far to say that he is sometimes ashamed from what is Martyrs. I want to believe that his idea all along was to bring this thought provoking concept to an otherwise less than original revenge film and go so far as to say that his "apology" for the movie in the introduction is nothing other than a thinly veiled marketing stunt and controversy starter.

Whether or not this is true I can only guess. What I cannot guess at is the craft that this man has brought to his film. OK, so this is no 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it is far beyond the reach of the Platinum Dunes remakes that Michael Bay is bankrolling. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Martyrs is a French production and is immediately outside the influence of Hollywood. Or perhaps it is that the director simply knows what he is doing. Watching the making-of featurette, I came away with respect for Mr. Laugier. He commands his crew well and in turn, the film is much better for it. I'll be looking forward to future works from he.

Besides any implied or deeper meaning, the reason I, among other people, are seeing this movie is because of the bloodshed on screen and the realistic, albeit slightly over-the-top, depiction of it. From the beginning I was floored by the severity and brutality of the murders and torture committed by the actors. Several times I had the uneasy feeling that I get when watching true life medical surgery television; something rare for me while watching the typical horror flick. Laugier uses his craft, that so many others fail to do, to create an ever present unease with the viewer. His knowledge, accompanied by exquisite make-up artists, make his bold decisions in his film making pay off so much more than in lesser hands. In one particular scene, Laugier shuns the use of slow-motion photography during the massacre of an entire family by shotgun because of the ferocity needed. He felt that the viewer would be that much more knowledgeable that they were watching a movie if he used slow-mo. It's true. The exclusion of the slow-motion just ratchets up the impact of the scene. Oh, what a scene it is.

What follows is a non-stop barrage of slices, dices, bludgeons, screws being ripped from someones skull, gunshots, self mutilations and a climax that if I spoiled, it would be a damn shame. What I can tell you is that I couldn't believe it when I saw it but once I did...creamed jeans. Martyrs belongs on my DVD shelf as well as yours, reader.