Olsens latest film is the first feature film from young writer/director Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene is certainly a stylistically assured debut, mysterious, moody, unbearably tense…
One of the benefits of a large family is that, of several children, your more likely to turn out at least one normal adult. A point in case are the Olsen sisters. Elizabeth Olsen is a commandingly lovely actress, wistful, with soulful eyes and a gracefilled figure, Elizabeth cuts a fine figure on the screen.
Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult. Martha Marcy May Marlene
Olsens latest film is the first feature film from young writer/director Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene is certainly a stylistically assured debut, mysterious, moody, unbearably tense in parts.
REVIEW: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Rolling Stones Peter Travers is astonished by Elizabeth Olsen’s performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene, a new drama about a young woman who escapes a nightmarish cult. Elizabeth Olsen is utterly captivating in this film, it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off her when she’s on screen. Check more of Peter Travers at www.rollingstone.com
Through Martha’s – Olsen – flashbacks we see all the telltale signs of a cult: a misogynistic patriarch who inducts young women into a commune lifestyle by predateous sexual and psychological manipulation.
Olsen’s performance perfectly captures the vulnerabilities of youth, and the underlying rebellion needed to escape such darkness. Olsen says she didn’t compile a lot of research into cults, instead, she said, “I just imagined what a group like that could provide to a young woman, how it could fill a void.”
Olsen plays Martha, a young woman we meet on the day she decides to run away from a cult located in the Catskills. Durkin and the skilled cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes present scenes of life in the cult farmhouse with a painterly serenity that only later flashbacks will dispel. After two years in this life, Martha calls her older sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), who unblinkingly offers Martha the comfort of the Connecticut lake house she shares with her husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy).
Adjustment doesn’t come easy for Martha, who thinks she can deprogram herself without telling anyone else about her ordeal. Lucy and Ted going at it in bed doesn’t deter Martha from climbing in with them. And the fear of simple socializing almost matches Martha’s terror of being found out and pulled back to the cult.
Rescued, there is something off, broken, odd about Martha, she seems interested only in sleeping and providing monosyllabic answers to their questions, Sarah and Ted remain clueless as to what has happened in the two years since the sisters have seen one another. And so the movie unfolds, chronicling the immediate paranoid days after Martha’s flight and the increasingly grim time (weeks? months? two years?) Marcy May spent in the thrall of Patrick and his addled harem. Moments in the present bleed seamlessly into memories, or are they dreams, of the past and Martha becomes increasingly unraveled.
Sean Durkin points out that they never use the word “cult” in the film.
It’s hard to talk about this movie without revealing the various details that make it so suspenseful, theres a kind of mundane, almost gentle horror at work that lends it a shiveringly chilly air of believability. One could easily imagine a damaged young woman like this – seemingly orphaned, estranged from her sister, lost – accepting one thing after another, bartering parts of herself away again and again in exchange for the sense of family, belonging and community. It’s the earthy, gritty, unflashy depiction of this kind of mental cataclysm that gives Durkin’s film its nerve-rattling momentum. It’s rare in film to see terror presented so delicately and without sensationalism — Durkin’s eye hovers, wanders and searches, what he creates turns out to be something terrible, beautifully monstrous.
That void is something Durkin noted as a “natural desire to belong to something bigger than the self.”
Durkin’s film deals with the inner world of someone wandering between memory, dream and paranoia. Martha asks her sister if she ever can’t tell what’s dream or memory, to which she replies, “No.” The scene inhabits the stark contrast between Martha’s vulnerable free spiritedness and her sister’s materialistic reality. Again, exploring the different ways people fill a void in their life.
In the mechanics of the film, there’s much to admire in Durkin’s editing with Zachary Stuart-Pointer. The scenes seamlessly interweave Martha’s emotional limbo in her sister’s foreign lifestyle of affluence with memories of the cult. As always, but particularly to this film, the editing is essential to carrying the story’s complexity through character. As the title of the film reveals, it is a subtly transformative journey as Martha is made into Marcy, emerges as May and ends up as Marlene.
Martha Marcy May Marlene, won the Directing Award at Sundance and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.
Director: Sean Durkin
Writer: Sean Durkin (screenplay)
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson and John Hawkes
Storyline: Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
source: fox searchlight
source: rolling stone