I just saw Martha Marcy May Marlene, and I think it would have taken Rango's spot as my favorite movie of the year so far if it weren't for the ending. But still, really, really awesome movie. FD, you'll love it (if you haven't seen it already).
So I went to see this movie last night based on your recommendation. Hadn't seen the trailer, didn't know who was in it, and didn't know what it was about (how very DeltaSigNutsack of me, I know. E).
Personally I find it hard to say I love this movie, however, it is a fantastic movie and incredibly unique. The movie is a masterpiece in pretty much all aspects, but given the subject matter (and the film's intent), it's a hard one to say you liked or enjoyed. It feels weird to use those words to this film.
I don't think I've seen a movie that has ever touched on trauma and how it affects people, especially those who grow up with a lack of supports and confidence, as accurate as this one. While, yes the movie does show some traumatic images, I really appreciated how the focus was not on traumatizing the audience, but on slowly sucking the audience into what the world becomes when you are traumatized. I mean, the way the movie refused to tell us that it was possibly going to be a psychological thriller or possibly just a straight up thriller, was genius. Like trauma fall out, it kept you in a constant state of paranoia, uncertainty, feeling stupid for thinking this could turn into a slasher flick (a sophisticated slasher albeit), then feeling not so stupid for thinking that. Without ever telling you that that was what it was doing the entire time. The ending of that movie is UNFORGETTABLE. Amazing.
Most movies that deal with trauma tend to focus (or give the centre piece attention) on the traumatic event itself, and try to make the audience be a part of that event. The intent seems to be that if we feel slightly traumatized then we will connect to the character and that we have all together experienced something powerful. What I'm saying is that the victim and their emotional fall out usually play second fiddle to the horrific images you've seen on the screen. I'm not just talking about "Hollywood" movies (those get it wrong and become somewhat offensive without saying) I mean a movie like 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. No matter how much screen time the main characters got, you left the theater with one particular scene in your head, which really strikes you in the gut more than the head I feel. Leaving Martha Marcy May Marlene, I probably left with the most complete feeling of a movie and it's character in my entire life. You leave realizing that there really was no centre piece, there was just total involvement from start to finish.
The movie is also very subtle and very tasteful in the way it uses film and style techniques throughout. There is never any "hammer to the head" attempts to create suspense, fear and uncertainty. It uses many standard shots, music, and for shadowing that create these feelings, but it is always far in the background and never out shines the story. Not an easy thing to pull off. The long shot of her in the water at the end totally had that Michael Haneke feel to it like she was either going to kill herself or something was going to be revealed in the corner of the frame to indicate that she isn't safe. Then you see the man on the rock. He's out of focus, but that's usually how these shots work, it either is or isn't Patrick. More of a heavy handed "mind fuck" than I was expecting. But, it of course doesn't end there. With its proper ending I looked back on the "man on the rock shot" and realized that it wasn't a stylistic choice for plot ambiguity (though it was at the time when we saw it), but that it was part of Martha's paranoia. For me those last two shots really summed up the style of the movie and how it chose to submerge us in Martha's traumatized world. Plot vs. Character. It kept that tension so masterfully the entire time until the very ending. Genius.
No doubt the fact that I work with victims of trauma, who lack any support systems whatsoever, makes me feel so intense toward this film. Possibly I'm making the movie out to be something it's not, but I don't think so.
I'm really glad you saw it and liked it! I knew it was something you'd appreciate.
I didn't know until afterwards that Martha is Kaitlin Olsen, Mary-Kate and Ashley's little sis. Who would have thought. She is sublime in this movie - her sexuality is a major feature and she pulls it off so effortlessly without ever gawking for the camera. It's really superb. For instance:
The scene where she and the British husband go out in the boat together. The way that she's coy, and reserved but playful, (also given the skinnydipping incident earlier), makes this weird sexual tension in that scene, and afterwards when nothing happens you wonder if you imagined it. The whole movie has that type of tension, where you're not sure if you're projecting or if it's in there somewhere.