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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)



Cults should give excellent material for films given that they’re sinister, oppressive and could be capable of anything. This describes Martha Marcy May Marlene (MMMM) very well, except that Martha doesn’t really become part of a cult, it is more like a small commune. OK so the commune is still sinister, oppressive and capable of anything but they don’t outwardly appear to have any definite tenets.

Elizabeth Olsen’s Martha has spent two years with the “family” headed by the very creepy Patrick (John Hawkes), and having escaped is very confused and traumatised; she is then rescued by her sister and she tries to reconnect with normal life. The film narrative flips between time on the commune (including gardening, casual rape and murder), and Martha trying to deal with her emotional confusion and forgetting how to behave in normal society.

There is a very good performance from Olsen, she very believably shifts between confusion, vulnerability and anger. It is a very accomplished performance that would make you believe that she has a series of great movie performances under her belt, she hasn’t, this is only her second feature film. John Hawkes has a very malevolent presence as Patrick, I don’t think that his character had that many scenes, but he felt ever-present; and when he was on screen you just had the feeling that he was capable of anything (including playing a hauntingly beautiful song on the guitar!).

Though it is a very well made film, there are a lot of unanswered questions; and as to the ending? Well I don’t think I’ve seen a film before where a few members of the audience audibly said “Huh?” There is certainly no closure to the story, if indeed there was really a story arc! It is a good film, it just doesn’t follow the usual beginning middle and end format; OK so a lot of films don’t necessarily follow this format, but MMMM only really seems to have a middle!

5 comments:

  1. This film literally just appeared on my radar, so now I'm thinking I have to hunt it down. Who doesn't like cults? A little weird that it's all middle and no beginning and end, though...something about a methodless madness?

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    1. It is a good film and I enjoyed it, definitely worth tracking down. It does have threads of the story that don't meet up though, leaving you thinking "why did she do that?". I did like the way that sometimes it wasn't immediately apparent whether we were seeing present day or a flashback to time in the commune; keeps you on your toes. Thinking about it, I guess that reflects the confusion that Martha feels.

      Methodless madness? That sounds like a cult alright!

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  2. This has finally come to my local cinema though I might wait until it's out on DVD. I think I'll enjoy it, if enjoy is the right word!

    Olsen has had very good reviews for it and I'd like to see it for John Hawkes as well.

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    1. It is definitely worth seeing; though if you would rather see other things at the cinema right now then I guess MMMM wouldn't suffer too much for seeing it on TV rather than on the big screen. That is apart from the scene where John Hawkes sings "Marcy May's song", which is mesmerising.

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  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogmJ2B41l2U&feature=related

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