It was imperative that I had to abuse some form of herbal remedy prior to compiling this post.
This is one of the most harrowing things to ever be presented utilizing the cinematic medium, and the American adaptation didn’t do the original justice.
Martyrs isn’t an exploitation film; as much as the content featured could draw one into making such an assumption. The empathy you feel for the leads and the hyper-realism of the physical torment is a contingency that audience members were unprepared for; let alone other directors.
Aristocracy and the dangers of secular cults with an infinite amount of wealth at their disposal is something already prevalent within the mainstream media; which begs the question, what are the things that go unreported and unnoticed?
Anna’s unconditional care for Lucie – with the latter being a victim of unfathomable childhood abuse, is amply illustrated throughout the introduction of Martyrs; hastily transitioning from Lucie’s infancy to adulthood.
This is essentially the groundwork (no pun intended) of why Martyrs is so emotionally excruciating – the camerawork, music and acting are so cohesive in accomplishing the crowning achievement of extreme French cinema.
A combination of the psychological and physical ramifications, alongside the justified reasons for exacting revenge, are what makes the beginning of Martyrs less bothersome than the later half.
To regard viewing the murder of an entire family in such a way says something about the heights (or lows) it reaches.
Geographical/environmental factors play a great part in what occurs throughout Martyrs, with the Lucie escaping (in her infancy) and an investigation later being conducted in a city; whilst the opposite occurs in a remote countryside location fifteen-years later.
This is certainly a sociological point that can be derived from the time-lapse that sets the scene of Martyrs, beyond that of you simply identifying with the victims to a greater extent – the fact that she was able to escape as an infant whilst Anna wasn’t further solidifies this point.
Ownership of property and the ability to design infrastructure to accommodate to such depraved acts – without needing official legislation (planning permission) is what enables what occurs in the latter half of Martyrs – and whatever else the collective movement hoped to accomplish.
The futility of vigilante revenge for those victimized is something made abundantly clear within the first half hour. Abuse at such a level may as well be considered emotional murder – and such a turn of phrase implies that the longevity of every sufferance endured by Lucie go well beyond that of simply being killed.
Martyrs acts as a forewarning to those sadistic enough to perpetuate such ritualistic (covert) physical torture – it’s not just the predator someone so impeached upon will seek in their retribution, but everyone affiliated with them in their public life.
Lucie almost killing her childhood friend following her rampage demonstrates how her vengeance went was an act of temporary psychosis, even though the shooting of her childhood abusers was premeditated.
People like Lucie most often don’t end up employed as psychiatrists; and from the very start, authoritative bodies are focused upon catching the perpetrator more than they are than helping the victim; however, this is a double-edged sword; potentially preventative of making others undergo similar tribulations.
Divine motives seem to be the driving force behind the astronomical level of torture and disfigurement that occurs in the film’s latter half – with the collective (or leader) deigning that inflicting the epitome of suffering is a necessary step toward answering existentialism.
This is clearly denial and a paradoxical justification for such depravity, showing just how delusional a clan can become and just how easily they can be herded by figures of supposed spiritual/academic intelligence.