Martyrs, directed by Pascal Laugier, is considered to be in the New French Extreme for its gore galore and human cruelty. Some say it’s “torture porn” but I personally disagree after seeing a lot of other films from this type of genre. Basically, the idea for New French Extreme is about pushing boundaries in horror. Some of the content can be taboo to the viewers, some too gory for people to stomach, other depicting sex and violence. However, after researching from various media it’s very transgressive and was created by French Directors in the 21st century. Think of art and horror being combined into something controversial, pushing the limits on taboo topics.
The tone of Martyrs is depressing, let’s face it, the root of the film itself is two women that have endured child abuse in some way. The acts were realistic, cruel and sometimes unbearable to watch as you see flashbacks of Lucie, the young woman, escaping from her abusers in the beginning of the film. Her mental health never recovered from her torment mixing with guilt due to leaving another victim in her abuser’s clutches. She encounters another young lady by the name of Ana who becomes like the motherly figure, caring for Lucie when she has her psychotic episodes and post-traumatic stress from the horror she endured. The film goes back to the present fifteen years later from when Lucie escapes and back into flashback of Lucie’s painful memories.
Starting out, the story’s theme seemed to be about revenge only to evolve into something more complex involving death and the afterlife. I do not want to give the whole plotline for I fear it would ruin the entire film. Trust me, this is a film you need to go in completely clueless, but I can assure you this is a film that sticks to you even after years of watching it. I can honestly say I’ve sat and watched the film twice in my early twenties and I can tell you I remember a lot of the high points. I think the end left me feeling numb with a slight twist on Ana’s part, but honestly this is for you to decide. This film honestly was the start to my interest in this specific film genre. It’s completely brutal and holds no bars on the content. It’s one of the very few films I’ve seen that doesn’t deal with any form of sexual abuse or assault instead the realistic aspects of how they abuse the victims enough to make your skin crawl.
I highly recommend this film but if I continue, I’m afraid I’ll ruin the surprise. Just keep an open mind, have a thick skin and most of all watch a feel-good movie afterwards. I attempted to watch it recently since owning it and I was just in too much of a negative space to find it entertaining. I give this film a 5 out of 5 for its brutal style and excellent leads.