Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008)

Despite its assured direction; despite its sumptuous minimal color palate (industrial greys, charcoal blacks, and linen whites flecked and splotched by crimson and skin); despite one genuinely stunning performance (by Mylène Jampanoï, who, to be fair, is given enough expressive close-ups to overcompensate for what some might see hysteria-as-acting); and despite a plot that both hurtles along like a conductor-less train car and that pulls not only the rug out from under you, but the entire floor as well; this film is yet another link in a chain beginning somewhere with Falconetti’s emotional battering at the hands of Dreyer in La passion de Jeanne d’Arc. Forcing females to suffer, whether to climb the lofty heights of realism on set, to plumb the depths of depravity in narrative, or to have something pseudo-profound to comment about that suffering in some bullshit meta way, is lazy filmmaking. More to the point, though: it’s unforgivable.

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