Review of Martyrs

Martyrs (2008)
Gory and harrowing
11 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I attended the Midnight Madness screening of Martyrs at the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

The first hour and a bit of Martyrs was quite effective in delivering unsettling imagery and sounds. Elements of child abuse is something that is certainly unnerving so it's subtext in the film added to the creepiness factor. the gore had it's place; it wasn't presented just for the sake of gore in of itself. Special makeup effects artist Benoît Lestang who passed away several weeks ago (as noted by director Pascal Laugier during the Q/A session after the screening) did a remarkable job to showing the brutal effects of violent physical injuries. The audience reaction is typical MM stuff: audible gasps, rolls of nervous laughter, loud and appreciative applause to truly gruesome scenes and other good stuff.

The last thirty minutes of the film held the audience in almost complete silence. The lack of any crowd reaction, aside from the revelation of what happened to Anna in her final stage, was due to the harrowing endurance test they and Anna (played by Morjana Alaoui) went through. The film turned from a highly engaging gore flick into a sad and rather depressing reflection of human suffering.

I had a strong reaction to the film that lead me to appreciate it on its dramatic and production levels. The filmmakers and actresses obviously had a lot of trust among themselves to deliver this film. after the screening Pascal Laugier, Morjana Alaoui and Mylène Jamanoï went up onstage to answer questions from MM programme director Colin Geddes and several members of the audience. Pascal fielded most of the questions while Morjana and Mylène nervously chimed in with their responses (mainly because neither of them speak English natively nor are they accustomed being infront of such a massive crowd of people). The Q/A session did get a bit awkward because some killjoy decided to challenge Pascal on why he made Martyrs. As to the context in which Martyrs was first conceived, Pascal mentioned he is going through deeply personal issues which (unsurprisingly) translated themselves, quite graphically, into Martyrs.

I'm pretty sure Martyrs is too intense for the general public so don't expect a wide theatrical release of the film. I could go on much further but that would necessitate revealing plot points and specific scenes.
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