Return on… #1 – the MARTYRS, the black diamond’s controversial Pascal Laugier

First issue of our topic BACK ON… ! On the occasion of the release of Ghostland, return on Martyrs, the second film by Pascal Laugier and real shock when it was released !

This text contains important elements of the plot. It is advisable to have seen the film before launching into the text below.

A lot of things have been said on the case of Martyrs upon its release in 2008. Alas, not always for good reasons or to actually speak of the cinema. Difficult for anyone to deny that this is the second film from Pascal Laugier was a small bomb in the cinematic landscape of French. Probably because no one was ready to see land a proposal as frank in remote areas that are accustomed to suffer a cinema horror ossified. We expected even less that this act be signed Pascal Laugier, new-come to the realization that until then only responsible for the lame – Saint-Angel. Not that this first test was a failure, but the ultra-formal mastery of Laugier prevented it from fully taking off. There was undoubtedly something to watch for in the man, that we felt cinephile and envious to share a form of cinema racy. With the Martyrs, he surprises us mainly by turning its back on all that we had seen in Saint-Angel, leaving on the doorstep aestheticism gothic, framing refined, a mannerism slightly bombastic. If we had the impression that he looked at it a moment making a feature film (print, validated by the first question, he did not hesitate to call Saint-Angelfilm virgin“), Laugier , is rushing headlong into Martyrs, animated by a passion that sweeps everything away in its path.In fact, from the first seconds, it is already light years of beautiful tracking shots of Saint-Angel. Here, the onboard camera is shaking, the cuts are not involved to meet any harmony within the assembly. It does not understand everything that is going on. And that is the goal. By this short scene pre-credits, Pascal Laugier puts us in a situation of discomfort totally assumed but, especially, draws the contours of the formal project as it seeks to put in place within the plot of Martyrs. If the grammar used has nothing of revolutionary, and may seem quite rudimentary (many shots in the shoulder), it fits perfectly to the intentions of a Laugier inhabited by the desire to bring us to physically feel the impact of each plan. To achieve its purpose, it denies almost completely the use of a storyboard, improvising from day to day on the tray and let themselves be carried by an energy that he can’t control. An approach uncontrolled caused by the despair in which was Laugier after the exit of Saint-Angel, in particular because of its critical reception. He was suffering and wanted to make suffer the people, in return, to not be alone in this mess. It was written : Martyrs could not know a classic development. The shooting is chaotic, Laugier changes 3 times of chief operator, is hated by his team and passes two fingers to abandon the project in path. Then came the resounding episode of the censorship, final stage of a painful way of the cross.

In his speech of central, a pivotal hub of the plot, Mademoiselle (Catherine Bégin, leader of a sect) explains to Anna the role of a martyr. She tells him that “people no longer consider to suffer“. Difficult not to see in this replica, a way for Pascal Laugier to apostropher the viewer and put it in the face of his own condition. The witness and guinea-pig, passive participant maintained in a form of comfort for an industry that prefers to play with small arms instead of trying to shake up his audience. The violence is cold, dry. Laugier don’t offer us any relief, it does not pass through any filter (formal, narrative, metaphorical) to the stage. And that is what is terrifying. Unlike a Hostel that uses a bit of the same frame narrative (of the rich taking advantage of their social class in order to torture people), no prism only makes the violence digestible. A coup is a coup. Without excess, without a touch of humor. A lot of torture-porn to assume their layer of second degree and all the fun that can steal the viewer but Martyrs is positioned radically as a movie unpleasant, which is contrefout of our opinion.The cinema of genre, almost by tradition, has often said something of the world, a collective sense, a fear. You could verify this by numerous examples, and Martyrs is no exception to this lineage of projects that are only put in evidence, through the use of codes or figures horrific, evil completely rational. Less a violent film as a film on the violence, Martyrs has often been misunderstood by the public who preferred to opt for the ease in calling his approach “free”. It is understandable that some have been deeply affected by the power of the images that stood before them, to the point of missing the about to the point of not seeing that Martyrs used to say something of the fanaticism. With his explanations convoluted, photos erected in proof, and his tone haughty, the character of Mademoiselle highlights the faulty foundations of a tiny group who uses violence in the name of a cause. One might as well evoke that end, open, punctuated by a “doubt“, where the matriarch abandons his own. This little pirouette ends spread on the whole of the film, a nihilism relentless reaching every plot of the scenario. It was said to be, Laugier wrote to the Martyrs in a state of almost-depression, and this state of mind is felt on the final result in contaminating all social classes, executioners and victims to the cruel disillusion.

In addition to physical violence, which terrifies the more in Martyrs is to see the back of the scenery, to realize that the torturers are also parents to adorable, sitting each morning in the family to take breakfast. The fear is gripping and allows Laugier to emphasize that violence has become pervasive in meddling in our daily lives, in our families, and it can arise anywhere. He has often reminded us, that for him, Martyrs is far less violent than what he can see on television every day. A speech a bit démago not totally devoid of meaning in the background. But for the audience it so in the middle of this hell rough and of these many themes, Laugier leaves us with the view range a few hooks purely emotional so that, if one wishes – the notion of acceptance is important in the movie – we may see the end of the tunnel. The construction of two large parties held because the failover from one to the other is done with the death of Lucy and the transcendence of Anna derives from their ambiguous relationship half-friendly half-in love. What makes us say that Martyrs is a pure romantic movie, in the literary sense of the term. When during her ordeal, Anna whispers “I miss you” to his dead friend, Pascal Laugier joined with a smoothness unexpected, the shocking words of Victor Hugo : “hell is the absence eternal“.

Maxime Bedini

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