What is this and why should you care?  There aren’t a lot of films which can give pause to a modern, desensitized internet veteran.  This is where we look at those films.

She thinks it's finally over.  It is not.

She thinks it’s finally over. It is not.

Martyrs is a gem in the crown of the New French Extremity movement, a collection of post-2000 France French films characterized by dizzying heights (read: depths) to the emotional, physical and spiritual assaults to which their protagonists are subjected.  The audience too.  Another characteristic of this movement is an abundance of female characters, and Martyrs is no exception.  The protagonists and villains are almost (with one small exception) all female.  Will it soften the impact of the relentless, stupefying cruelty to which the hero of this film is subjected to know that its source is a woman, just like her?  It will not.  The abuse is in no way softenable.

Martyrs, perhaps more than any film I’ve looked at under the WitD banner has touched me.  Probably inspired by the famous ‘ear’ scene from Pulp Fiction, many years ago I once declared that the scariest thing I could imagine happening to me would be being captured by some agent and then informed that I was to be tortured for no other reason than the entertainment of my captor; I would be powerless in any capacity to make it stop.  Pascal Laugier, decided to get right on that, and in Martyrs there is a full 35 minutes of the film dedicated to an extended, savage, blistering torture sequence.

Martyrs, takes a circuitous route to get there.  The first act feels a little like a Japanese ghost story type setup with a home invasion twist.  The second has a bit of a detective story/mystery feel to it, before plunging into the brutal, torturous aforementioned third.  These twists will keep you guessing just what you’ve gotten yourself into.

But is this entertaining?  Why would anyone subject themselves to this film?  Actually, it is, and there’s a George Mallory quote that belongs here.  We’re going to get into details and I urge those sensitive readers to abandon this pursuit here.

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