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Martha Marcy May Marlene DVD


Martha Marcy May Marlene creates a sense of uneasy suspense within seconds of coming on screen: a young woman, who will be known by all the title names at various times in the movie, is escaping from a rural commune of some sort. And not just a commune, but by the looks of it, a cult--an impression that will grow as Martha flashes back to her experiences once she reaches the safety of her sister's antiseptic country place. It is part of director Sean Durkin's design that we experience the film as Martha's point of view, which means there may be some question about whether she's an emotionally unstable person to begin with or simply in a legitimate terror about the traumatising events that have unfolded for her in recent months. Although the film has one storytelling contrivance (Martha withholds her experiences from her sister, when a little exposition would help matters tremendously), in general Durkin keeps a lid on this simmering situation, and he's got a good compositional eye that only occasionally tips over into preciousness. Sarah Paulson and Hugh Dancy play Martha's complacent but concerned sister and brother-in-law, and John Hawkes (Winter's Bone) is a spellbinder as the commune leader, a manipulator of subtle skill. (With some stories like this, you have a hard time believing cult followers could fall for these creepy charismatics; in this one, Hawkes demonstrates how such things might happen.) The movie's most unexpected and alluring touch is the performance by Elizabeth Olsen, as Martha; this younger sister of the child-star Olsen twins brings a zonked-out centre of gravity to the part. She's got just a bit of blankness, too, which enhances the movie's well-wrought guessing game. --Robert Horton

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A fleeing cult member struggles to re-adapt to life with her sister's family in this award-winning psychological drama from director T. Sean Durkin. Although she now lives a tranquil life at her sister Lucy (Sarah Poulsen)'s home in Connecticut, Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is still haunted by the memories of her time spent under the spell of cult leader Patrick (John Hawkes) at his retreat in the Catskills. As the weeks go by and Lucy's family struggles to cope with her increasingly erratic mental state, Martha becomes filled with an increasing sense of foreboding and paranoia, as she fears that Patrick is about to return and exact his revenge.

Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 or region free DVD player in order to play  Martha Marcy May Marlene is a powerful psychological thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Martha a young woman rapidly unravelling amidst her attempt to reclaim a normal life after fleeing from a cult and its charismatic leader (John Hawkes) Seeking help from her estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy) Martha is unable and unwilling to reveal the truth about her disappearance When her memories trigger a chilling paranoia that her former cult could still be pursuing her the line between Martha&39;s reality and delusion begins to blur Actors Elizabeth Olsen Christopher Abbott Brady Corbet Hugh Dancy Maria Dizzia Julia Garner John Hawkes Louisa Krause Sarah Paulson Adam David Thompson Allen McCullough Lauren Molina Louisa Braden Johnson & Tobias Segal Director T Sean Durkin Certificate 15 years and over Year 2011 Languages English

  • Average Rating for Martha Marcy May Marlene - 5 out of 5

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  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
    Amy Zhou

    Why do you watch movies? If it's just for pure mindless entertainment, then feel free to skip along to the next review: there's nothing for you here. But if you're looking for a little more depth, sophistication and emotional attachment from your viewing - and if you're prepared to be genuinely challenged and unsettled by what you watch - then I recommend checking out Martha Marcy May Marlene.

    Martha Marcy May Marlene is a drama about a young woman - Martha - who is taken in by her sister and brother-in-law after escaping from the confines of an abusive cult. Not only does the film deserve a lot of credit for resisting the temptation to artificially sensationalise or glamorise such a story, but it also should be lauded for using this fairly simple plot as a jumping-off point to raise some very challenging questions about human behaviour, family relationships and morality. And, thanks to some superb performances from the film's fairly small group of lead actors, you'll be absolutely gripped every step of the way.

    Elizabeth Olsen, in her very first major film role, turns in an astoundingly accomplished performance as the titular Martha. When we first meet her, she's mentally exhausted and dehumanised after escaping from the cult. But as she begins to open up to her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and Lucy's husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy), Olsen begins to add subtle layers to her characterisation that gradually build into something that's amazingly multi-faceted and complex. Paulson and Dancy do a fine job portraying a relatively happy couple whose day-to-day lives are disturbed by the sudden entry of such a troubled soul. But if the film belongs to one actor in particular, it's Olsen.

    The bizarre sleeping and social habits that Martha exhibits at Lucy's house could have seemed over-the-top or unbelievable in the hands of a lesser actress, but Olsen sells them with such a naturalistic, understated performance that you absolutely buy into the idea that this is a normal person whose mind has been corrupted by her disturbing experiences at the hands of the cult. And when Martha inadvertently walks in on her sister and brother-in-law having sex (and is completely unfazed by it) there's a completely believable innocence about Olsen's performance that makes it a disturbing, rather than funny, moment - and also starts to hint at some of the dark areas that will be explored in later scenes relating to her abuse at the hands of the cult members.

    Olsen's hesitant, uncertain performance also helps to add to the impression that Martha may be a partly unreliable witness to her own experiences - or that at the very least, those traumatic events have scarred her so deeply that she's having trouble maintaining her grip on reality. This is reinforced by the scene-shifting choices of director Sean Durkin, who frequently moves the story between past and present events without clearly signposting the temporal change (often using dialogue that disorientingly overlaps from one scene in the present to another set in the past), helping us to sympathise with the sense of displacement that Martha feels.

    I've talked about Martha a lot so far, but those other names in the title become important too, once the film begins to show us the way in which Martha's sense of personal identity is eroded when she joins the cult. Its leader, Patrick (played with wonderfully sinister restraint by John Hawkes, in a performance that bravely avoids turning Patrick into a two-dimensional "evil" character), quickly renames her "Marcy May" - and later we see that she's encouraged to adopt the name Marlene when answering the phone at the cult's remote farmhouse. It all helps to reinforce the impression that the traumatic events Martha suffers are affecting her far more deeply than simple physical abuse, removing her sense of identity and humanity in a way that isn't easily remedied once she's escaped.

    By the time the film gets to its most difficult flashback scenes - one in which Martha is subjected to a ritualistic rape by Patrick shortly after joining the cult, and another even more disturbing sequence in which Martha participates in drugging and preparing another newly-recruited cult member to undergo the same experience - the film has built up enough trust with the viewer that you're able to appreciate exactly why you're being shown these traumatic moments in Martha's journey in such detail. By showing the psychological effect of the abuse in the present-day scenes before going back and showing the abuse itself, director Durkin makes it clear that his primary concern always lays with the character and her journey - and he's always careful to make absolutely sure that the scenes dealing with Martha's sexual abuse are completely free of any kind of titillation or sensationalism, instead being presented as the cold, dehumanising experiences that they are.

    Finally, the film shows supreme confidence by offering up an ending that isn't clean or conclusive, and in fact leaves us at an incredibly tense and unresolved moment in Martha's journey: refusing to offer its audience the unrealistic comfort of a simple happy ending, and leaving us with a lot of questions to mull over. Without spoiling things too much, the "bad guys" don't get their comeuppance and the "good guys" don't come out of it unscathed. The film instead presents a far murkier moral landscape, and encourages us to make our own judgements about what we've seen. It's also brave enough to offer up some genuinely challenging questions about modern lifestyle conventions, and again is daring enough to not provide any easy answers, leaving the viewer with some thought-provoking ideas to consider long after the credits have rolled.

    Why do we watch movies? For some, it's merely for disposable, forgettable entertainment. For others like me, however, movies encourage us to think, enable us to feel, and help us to be exposed to new experiences and ideas - and Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of the most challenging, original and thought-provoking films I've seen in many years. Mesmerising, haunting and impossible to turn away from: I highly recommend it.

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