Martha Marcy May Marlene!

Martha Marcy May Marlene. Who remembers this title correctly at the cinema cashier really deserves free admission. But the film is a small treat itself, especially Elizabeth Olsen (jepp she’s Mary-Kate and Ashleys little sister) gives a stunning performance!

A young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) packs a few things, quietly leaves the house and starts running through the woods like crazy. She seems to be running from something, although the calling of the housemates chasing her sounds more worried than threatening, less accusing than questioning. After arriving at her sister Lucy’s (Sarah Paulson), it becomes evident that Martha had disappeared for a while. Where was she and why is she this bewildered? Why does she stare at the distance with empty eyes, feels threatened in the idyllic house by the lake and has estranged this far from her family’s habits? Flashbacks to Marthas life as Marcy May give some explanation for Martha’s behaviour.

As a member of a cult-like community she lived in an alienated world and a closed-off society. Farming and lots of silence dominate the days of the group gathered around the charismatic Patrick (John Hawkes). But the seemingly idyllic life already starts to crack with the employment of classical gender roles. The women cook and then wait in the hallway until the men are finish before they eat alone. Also the rape of all female members in the community, which is disguised as an initiation ritual and the constant reminder: “Don’t be so selfish!” when Martha tried to draw completely normal lines, are horrific.

Sean Durkin’s first feature is disturbing. Without much dialogue the film relies heavily on its fantastic cast that manages to imply entire emotional journeys through looks and gestures. Especially impressive is Elizabeth Olsen, searching for her own identity as Martha. Through Durkin’s clever staging of the film the protagonist’s deep insecurity and fear is transferred to the spectator, who embarks on the search for common factors in her personality in both worlds with Martha. Martha Marcy May Marlene is no piece of cake or easy entertainment and clearly a film that is not interested in clear schemes or explanations. This makes it special, impressive and a challenge to the viewer.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (D: Sean Durkin, USA 2011)

Looking for something similar? I already recommended it a few weeks ago, but Winter’s Bone really is worth watching. John Hawkes is in this thriller as well and it lures you into the world of the protagonist just as well as Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Winter’s Bone (D: Debra Granik, USA 2010)

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