Martha Marcy May Marlene

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 5757
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:56 am

SPOILERS ARE FLYING NOW, SO THE UNINITIATED SHOULD DEPART

It's obviously very ambiguous. I think at least the two options you suggest are there in that final scene -- the driver did "come out of nowhere", as Dancy says, and certainly seems to be dangerously tailgating. It could be a delegation from the cult...or simply her paranoia kicking in.

My rationale for the other option I brought up:

She was allowed to leave the cult awfully easily. The young guy (can't recall his name) found her at the diner, and just let her leave? This is a cult that has, not to put too fine a point on it, KILLED people. She KNOWS this. Would they let her skip off like that? Well, maybe...if there were an ulterior motive.

Though Martha certainly behaves as one who is confused between two worlds -- as when she inappropriately curls into bed with her sister and brother-in-law while they're in the act -- her most emphatic declarations show the cult philosophy dominating: the denunciation of the couple's materialism, and especially her "You'll be a terrible mother" shriek.

It's never explained just what those Hawkes-inspired home invasions were meant to achieve, but they seem rooted in the same sort of contempt for bouregois life as Martha expresses in those rants. So maybe the whole trip back into her sister's life was the ultimage revenge/expression of anger at both her early life (the one we presume made her ripe for cult-picking) and her sister's continued version of it. Maybe something really ugly happens to the sister/brother-in-law right after the blackout, and Martha/Marcy May has brought it on.

I'm deeply intrigued by the film's title, specifically the "Marlene" part of it. "Marlene" is only referenced in one scene in the film, and it's an oddball one: the scene is near the end of the film (after we know about both the fatal home invasion, and Marcy May's reaction to it), but nothing particularly story-advancing happens in it -- unless it's to show that Marcy May is continuing to interact normally with cult members even after this traumatizing event, not crawled off into a shell as she had been in preceding scenes. I got the idea (after the film was over): what is this scene was taking place after the entire event with sister and brother-in-law was over? If it was trying to show us Martha went back to being part of the cult? The once thing the scene tells us: "Marlene" is the identity one assumes when one is trying to appear normal to the outside world. Couldn't this suggest all her behavior at her sister's home was a pose?

Not to spoil yet another film within this spoiler, but I'm reminded of how, in The Last of Sheila, James Coburn said, early on, "You can solve the mystery without leaving this room, if you're smart". I wonder if the title is tipping us off fully about the Olsen character's life progression: she starts off Martha, for a while she's Marcy May, but she doesn't end up back as Martha...she ends up as Marlene, and therefore still part of the cult.

Whether I'm right or not, I love that the film raises such possibilities.

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 6716
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Postby Sabin » Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:08 am

What I do love about Martha Marcy May Marlene is that it is actually interesting to discuss what the ending means, as opposed to Inception which is just a con.


SPOILERS ABOUT THE ENDING, SO TURN YE BACK OR DESPAIR!

That ending never crossed my mind, that she is actually bringing them there. I suppose it's possible. To me, the ending is either that she is trying to leave the cult and the cult finds her OR she is so deeply disturbed that she is hallucinating.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 5757
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Nov 02, 2011 10:34 am

I'LL BE AS VAGUE AS POSSIBLE HERE, BUT WHAT I'M ASKING (AND ANY RESPONSES) WILL LIKELY BE SPOILER-ISH, SO THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN IT SHOULD BE WARNED:

All of us -- and most critics -- are describing the film as a story of a young woman who runs away from a cult.

My question: Is this the full/accurate description...or could it be amended to read:

"The story of a young woman who tries to leave a cult but is eventually brought back in?"

OR, EVEN MORE OUT THERE

"The story of a young woman who only appears to be trying to leave a cult"?

Two things on which I'd base these questions: the film's final scene, and the film's title.

I'll throw in my thoughts in a while, but for now I'll just let these thoughts hang out there.

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 6716
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Postby Sabin » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:55 am

There are three somewhat major leaps that this film required of me, which I happily took. Only later did they start to rub me slightly the wrong way. The first is that Martha's sister and husband would not clue into the terrifying nightmare that the film's titular survivor is enduring. Ultimately, the film ain't the film if they ask a normal amount of questions. The second is that Sarah Paulson is Elisabeth Olsen's sister. Now on paper, they look like a match. They carry themselves world's apart on the screen and appear like strangers. I get why this is, but I just didn't buy it, nor did I really felt drawn into her marriage newly suffering as a result of Martha's arrival. It likely would have worked better had they just turned a complete blind eye rather than the film meet them halfway.

The third leap is that this dazzling film really operates most successfully as a suspense horror film rather than anything that truly intelligently probes this situation. It's fantastically produced, but writer/director Sean Durkin shoots Elizabeth Olsen from a distance, observing her in extremis like a horror movie future victim, and because of this there is a slight distancing mechanism at work in this film. It's a queer one, because we keep jumping back and forth in time (fluidly and dazzlingly, I might add) in sync with her mental state. And yet, I always felt like I was on the outside of her watching what she would do. I'm not saying this doesn't work, but rather it works strangely. There isn't much to be learned about survivors of these cults or the cults themselves. In all likelihood, it's all strung together from other films he liked. A little The Strangers here. A little Winter's Bone there.

I don't want to come down too hard on this film because it's one of my favorite films of the year. And it's certainly one of the most gorgeous. I want to talk about the cinematography. I want to, but I can't. I don't understand the technical speak enough, but they either underlit the film or darkened it in post, but I haven't seen an American film be this brave to get this grainy in a while. Jody Lee Lipes who also shot Afterschool is an impossibly major talent. He shoots this film with a veneer of loveliness that recalls 70s filmmaking. I could not stop staring at these images. That also affects a slight distancing. And yet what Durkin does ratchet a level of uncertainty scene for scene that I found myself in an almost unbearable degree of suspense. Durkin is very accomplished at teasing to what might happen. I'm not sure how it will hold up on a repeat viewing, but I found Martha Marcy May Marlene to be about as riveting as anything I've seen all year.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

User avatar
kaytodd
Assistant
Posts: 846
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2003 10:16 pm
Location: New Orleans

Re: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Postby kaytodd » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:50 pm

I loved this film too and agree with a lot of Tee's post. It won't happen but if Olsen is nominated for an Oscar it would be deserved. Never has a newcomer's performance in my lifetime been such a pleasant surprise. Compared to Olsen, Jennifer Lawrence and Hayley Osment were veterans when they gave their breakout performances. Olsen is subtle, natural, un-selfconscious and skilled all at once. While Mary Kate and Ashley were making hundreds of millions of dollars, Elizabeth was graduating from two prestigious schools of performing arts. Is she a one hit wonder? She has multiple films coming out next year, both quality projects and commercial projects aimed at girls in their late teens who grew up on her big sisters so we will soon find out if she has real talent and real screen presence. I am looking forward to seeing what she does in 2012.
The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. Oliver Wendell Holmes

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 5757
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Oct 29, 2011 1:53 am

My personal life has run me ragged enough lately that i don't feel my usual articulate self. This is a great handicap when it comes to discussing Martha Marcy May Marlene -- a film I quite like, but one whose achievements are often so subtle it's hard in the best of circumstances to describe them accurately. A brief try:

Like the 80s film Ticket to Heaven, the film deals with a cult, but its fractured narrative goes in unusual directions. The film begins with Martha (renamed Marcy May inside the cult) making an early morning run from the cult farm, eventually contacting her sister, who brings her to the lake house she and her husband have rented. The film deals alternately/simultaneously with the events that occurred inside farm territory, and with Martha's attempts/failures to exist in mainstream life. The scenes from these two arenas comment on one another in unusual ways -- events in flashback can help explain why Martha reacts unexpectedly to certain things, while the scenes between the sisters (who apparently long had issues) make clear why Martha was so ripe for being sucked into the cult experience to begin with. Neither story progresses in completely expected ways, and the final moments of the film raise, for me, interesting, disturbing questions, which I won't go into right now because they'd be a big fat spoiler for anyone who hasn't yet seen the film. I will definitely want to discuss them when others are ready to chime in.

The touted Elizabeth Olsen performance is, I think, quite special, and quite unique. Martha can be maddening in her affectlessness and obliviousness, but Olsen never makes a show of these things -- she underplays most of them, which gives the performance a vivid honesty. At the same time, I felt like I knew alot about this character, alot of which was conveyed visually. Olsen is probably, technically, not the beauty her famous sisters are, but her face is made for movies -- or, at least, for this movie. And in director Sean Durkin she has a man who's more than ready to exploit that face. I feel like alot of the movie is close in on Martha, and that I'm sensing her feelings even when she's not speaking. Not to compare the level of overall filmmaking, but this is the sort of thing Griffith and Bergman used to do with their actresses. There's a wonderful scene between Olsen and her sister (played by a very good Sarah Paulson) where they touch a bit on their estranged history. The scene stays in two-shot for its full length, and the reactions each actress displays -- to what the other says, even to what each is saying herself -- tells us far more about the things they're discussing tha the words they speak. This movie has alot of subtext, and both director and performers deserve credit for bringing it to the fore, making a fairly thin story-line burst with interior life. (The actors at the cult are also quite strong, especially John Hawkes, impressive once again)

More on this later, maybe. Main thing: I do highly recommend it.


Return to “2011”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests