Made in the year 2008, MARTYRS is part of the wave of New French Extremity. The New French Extremity contains extreme depictions of violence and sex - or you could call it torture porn. If you’ve seen the film, you probably turned it off, or went through it with your eyes closed half the time. The film does contain graphic content, but I believe there’s room to appreciate the voice of the filmmakers behind any controversial film.
The premise of the film (spoilers!): Lucie was kidnapped and tortured as a child. She escapes, but left a girl behind in the process. This girl she haunts her throughout the film in the form of a demon or a manifestation of guilt (either one, you decide). Lucie finds the family that tortured them and proceeds to kill them with a shotgun - in the most unjustifiable way, thinking that this would relieve her of the demons or guilt. She then calls Anna to help clean the mess of the home and hide the bodies. What Lucie didn’t realize is that killing the family didn’t relive her of her demons; she kills herself midway through the film, leaving Anna at the home alone. She discovers a passageway to the basement where she finds a lab. Anna frees an experimented-upon patient, taking her upstairs and helping her recover. A day later several people storm the home, kill the patient, trap Anna, and begin to experiment on her as well.
As I watched MARTYRS, full of events so graphic and painful to watch, I began to question the morality and where the film stood. But the 10-15 minutes of the film where Anna finds the woman in the basement of the home is a break from the torture and helps give meaning to the story. All her rescue did was lead to her downfall, as she became a replacement of the woman that she helped. When I watch these films, I try to find the significance of the events. I feel like a important part of the story being told in MARTYRS is that the morality of a single action doesn’t mean there’s always happy ending. The violence in the film has a lucid dream feel, a feeling of being parched, but no water is around. New French Extremity’s biggest influence is Marquis De Sade. In Marquis De Sade’s writing, the situations are bleak, but good and evil tend to balance each other out. And that’s what happens in MARTYRS.
The film shows Anna and Lucie as two completely different people. Anna and Lucie both go through the same suffering, but the outcome is different. Lucie lets her suffering drive her mad, leading to her death by suicide - while Anna accepts her fate and dies at peace on a laboratory lab. You could use this message in real life if you really wanted to.
If you decide to give this movie a watch, try to be opened-minded. In the world of art, mostly everything has a purpose. Or I could be wrong and it could just be for shock value.