Director/Writer: Pascal Laugier
For those of you who cant take talking negatively about religion, I suggest you tune out and come back another day, because today were gonna be talking about Martyrs and well, that's what Martyrs is all about, dissecting the very nature of religion. Martyrs really blew me away, it's one of the finest French horror films I’ve seen in a long time. The French have been making some damn fine horror movies over the past few years. They have been so good that in my opinion, they have put American horror films to shame. Don’t know how many of you have seen Inside (2007) but if you haven’t, you are missing out on a damn fine scary movie! What about High Tension (2003)? Frontier(s) (2007)? If you haven’t seen any of these films, it’s about time you did. I mean, if you care about good horror films at all.
Martyr’s is the story of two girls, Anna and Lucie. The first one we meet is Lucie. When we first meet her, she has just escaped from a dungeon, she looks beat up, exhausted and demented. She runs around the streets screaming for help! What has happened to her? Who did this to her? Why is she running away? Will she ever be a normal person again?
First, I’ll let you in on something about me, I was a devout zealous Christian. Yup, I believed in Jesus, I believed in golden thrown rooms and castles in the sky. I was one of the faithful. But one fine day, I decided to analyze what I was believing in, you know, really get in there and find logic to what I was investing so much of my time and life in. One question kept haunting me, where did all religions come from? And why are there so many of them? After conducting an extensive research and lots of thought to the subject, I came to the conclusion that I had believed in something that had absolutely no way of being proved. It was all based on a book that somebody wrote, it was some story though. I never heard “God” speaking to me. I never saw anything supernatural; there was simply no proof for what I was investing so much of my time in. So one day, after much deliberation, after much research, I simply stopped believing. I stopped going to church. I got out. I escaped! And now I was out in a strange new world, a world I would have to learn to adapt to and learn to live in. In a way, I was reborn into reality, I disconnected from the proverbial Matrix, I took the red pill! So this is probably part of the reason why I identified so much with this film. It got to me in a very personal way.
Without ruining the film for anyone, I just want to say that this is one of the best films about religion ever made. And I’ve seen a lot these! If you are interested in seeing films about this topic check out films like The Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001), Bad Dreams (1988), Silent Hill (2006) or Conan The Barbarian (1982). Believe it or not, films like the ones I've just mentioned and The Wickerman (1973) helped me see how dangerous religion can be, the negative side to the equation. My research taught me that any wacko can start preaching anything, and there are bound to be people who will join him in believing whatever it is he or she wants them to believe, even if it leads them straight to their deaths. Doesn’t matter if the stories are real or not, some people will simply follow without question. I mean, have you ever stopped to analyze just how many different kinds of beliefs there are in the world? How all of them say they got “the truth”! The magic solution to everything? My personal belief is that there are so many religions in the world precisely because nobody knows the real truth. But humans need to believe in something bigger then them, and religions offer them these deities to worship. Jesus, Vishnu, Buddha, Shiva, Jehovah, Chango, take your pick. Point of the matter is that all of these religions offer up a fantastic story about the origins of the universe, about how we all got here, and about where we go when we die. In my opinion, these perfectly packaged solutions exist simply to give us answers to what I like to refer to as “the great mysteries of the universe”, the big questions. These mysteries have yet to be answered; the problem resides in the fact that most humans can’t take the fact that we really don’t know anything about the origins of life and the universe. They can’t take the idea that maybe when we die, nothing happens. The idea that we simply die is too harsh on the psyche of some; so in comes religion and gives them a way out from all that uncertainty that unbelievers live with on a daily basis.
Martyr’s central theme is this one and it brings these themes forward through symbolisms and through the context of a horror film. And I think it’s freaking brilliant the way the film delivered its points across. I mean, some religions catch you against your will. Think about Catholicism for example. With Catholicism you don’t even have a choice, if your parents are Catholic’s, chances are they will baptize you into that religion without you even knowing it! While you are a baby! In a way, you are taken hostage into a religion! I enjoyed how this film represented the entrapment that some religions submit their parishioners too. How you feel constricted, restrained, held back. Controlled. It isn't long before all the rules and regulations they hammer into your life start to drive you nuts. The crap they feed you and keep feeding you gets to be nauseating after a while, in the film this is represented in the slop they force feed the prisoners that are tortured. Some people take that slop for the rest of their lives, but some will want to escape it, run away and be free.
One of the topics the film touches is, can a person who escapes a religion be normal again? Some religions will leave you scarred, battered, psychologically destroyed, like the characters on Martyrs who are literally scarred. After an event like that, can you be normal again? Can you rejoin society? You can. I did. But like the characters in this film, you will always have those psychological scars. After you wake up to reality, you feel you wasted so much of your life in that dark lifeless dungeon of the mind! Some might feel that not all religions are like this, that some of them are good. But in my opinion, this is not the case. There are no good religions in the world because at the base of all these religions is a BIG, FAT, HUGE, STINKING LIE. Why would anyone want to live a lie? I’d much rather live by logic and reason instead of faith, which is just another word for believing in something you have no proof for. I would rather be in control of my own life. I would rather do good to others simply because this is the right thing to do. Not because I’m afraid someone is going to come and punish me. I’d rather learn from my mistakes then feel guilty for them all my life. Accept life is just one big mystery, after all isn’t that what makes it interesting? The mystery? The fascination with the wonder of life? The wonder of it all?
Anyhow, speaking about the film itself and not just its themes, this is one solid horror movie. I loved the fact that the film isn’t preachy at all. Anyone can watch this movie and completely miss out on its symbolisms and thematic elements, because they are not in your face. For the casual viewer, this could pass for just another horror movie, but for the deep thinkers out there, this ones deep. This movie could even be mistaken for the "torture porn" that's been so popular lately in films like SAW (2004). In reality it’s so much more than that. Rest assured the film is not preachy at all. I will warn you that this movie is extremely gory. It has no remorse; it’s very unrestrained with its violent nature. Well, you know a film is going to be violent when the films director gives an introduction before the film, and he apologizes for the films violent nature. By the way, if your going to see this film, make sure it's the unrated directors cut of the film, any other version wont give you the full effect. But hey, I give the director props, he says he was being very sincere and truthful, and that’s one of the things that matters the most to me in this world, telling it like it is.
Rating: 5 out of 5