Martyrs for a Cause

 Ay, Welcome to Spoiler's ville!

Okay, well there will be restraint for actual story details-- but avoid this if you're like me and are not even watching the trailers for these movies.

Whoa, that was ironic!

One of my early posts was about how much I loved Funny Games-- which I had watched to Prepare for Martyrs. A direct comparison. Well I couldn't have picked a more topical movie to rent, incidentally.

So we're at the Q&A, and an audience member challenges the director on the violence in Martyrs, and then goes on to say that Funny Games was more intelligent-- pretty much dissing horror consumption in general.

Now I didn't agree with this as a judgement call; I mean, what did you expect coming into the movie?

Questioning violence in a horror movie, or ANY movie, for that matter, is redundant. Take the violence out of James Bond, see how that holds up at the box office. And my answer isn't about money-- it's about entertainment; and differentiating between the real world and entertainment land. Let's take all of that stabbing out of Hamlet then-- let's see how motivated those characters feel in a land of candy canes. Seriously. EDIT: okay that's an exaggeration, but my point remains-- at the most basic level of a story, people are entertained by violence. The rest is just details.

Of course, I'd be dragged into the middle of this (I drag myself into the middle of the arena, are you not entertained?!)

THEN the director of Martyrs goes on to say that he hates Funny Games, how it speaks to the audience directly and says "Fuck you, pig!" to the viewer.

Yikes. I suppose it does do that.

But maybe I won't pick a side here, but my own side.

Don't roll your eyes just yet; you can have one with the other.

The thing that surprised me most about Martyrs, was the presence of a strong and serious message. (I was also happy to see some very Argento-esque nightmare logic plot twists)

Of course, I was expecting to be entertained, expecting there to be new levels of torment, but I didn't expect to see such an expressive purpose (outside of adrenaline thrills and savage humanity), punctuated so clearly in the final act. I'm thinking more about the underlying reason for the violence than I am about all those amazing special FX.

Now, I've always believed that horror is the perfect genre to express personal beliefs-- but I went in expecting a sort of Last House on the Left for the new millennium. It wasn't that either.

So here it is;

Martyrs is an existensial parable. It's double barrel horror, brilliant executed, brutally violent, endlessly sadistic in expression-- but at it's core, it's not actually about the violence; it's about nihilism, and the impotence of human suffering. Or so I gather!

Funny Games, is in another arena. It breaks the fourth wall; it interacts with the audience; it calls you on the violence by refusing to show it. It knows it's a movie, and it knows you know, and it gets under your skin. It's provocative; an aggressive satirical statement questioning our right to enjoy the simulated suffering of others.

Both movies deny the audience any kind of satisfaction, as far as character karma goes.

They do this differently-- Funny Games breaks out of the expected story structure format to prove a point-- Martyrs shifts gears and changes directions; working within format and revealing the point that's been obscured from the beginning.

My main criteria for an exceptional movie-- is that I need to come away with something resonant.

With Funny Games-- It was vacancy; chills, guilt, the feeling of being pick pocketed by a close friend.

Martyrs... I need to sleep on, if I can ever get to sleep. (It's past 5am and I'm still talking about it!)


I think the difference between the 2 films parallel the two choices presented for the characters in Martyrs. That is the choice of being a victim or a martyr.
With Funny Games you are constantly being reminded you that you should feel bad for watching the film. The family is as much the victims of the audiences gaze as they are of the two young men. By watching, we are accomplices in their degradation, and should accept our share of the guilt.
On the other hand, Martyrs shows us suffering without the commentary. It allows the audience to confront their own feelings about what they are witnessing. A title card explains that the word martyr shares its origin with the greek word for witness. Laugier trusts the horror audience to have the appropriate response to what they have seen.
Far from being less intelligent than Funny Games, it demands more intelligence from its audience, and for me, it creates a far more authentic experience of terror and disgust.
Comment By KAREN SHUTE At 11/09/2021 4:29 PM
I thought the very ending of Martyrs is what really elevated it from an otherwise great horror film to an engrossing center piece; it really morphed into a different kind of movie by finally giving all the suffering a context to reference.

However, I really enjoyed the second person subjective discomfort of Funny Games.

I hope the directors continue to duel with more highly disturbing and provocative films to come.
Comment By Darryl Shaw At 11/09/2021 6:11 PM
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