18 April 2012
Martha Marcy May Marlene
I have been putting off watching Martha Marcy May Marlene for far too long. I think I procrastinated in part, because I was told that this film is really disturbing, and to prevent myself from having self-anxiety created nightmares, I decided that I didn't want to watch it alone, and I definitely didn't want to watch it in the dark. I know, I'm crazy. I put off watching this movie for very silly reasons, stemming from my own difficulty to separate fiction from reality. I'm nuts. But what's worse is, I had nothing to fear, you see, because I am friends with people who worked on this movie. That's right, I put off watching a movie because I was scared of being disturbed by a fiction that was put together by people I am friends with. Who am I?
But enough of my inner-monologue, let's get down to the brass tacks.
Martha Marcy May Marlene was a real treat. Visually speaking, I was immediately drawn in to the expansive landscape of the Catskills. I wanted Martha's seemingly free spirit. The ability to skinny dip and jump off of cliffs into cool pools of water. The simplicity of her cutoffs and bruised legs. Her hair. I wanted to quit my job, live off of the land, maintain self-sufficiency, become a part of a different kind of community. Initially, it all looked so good, so tantalizing, so ideal. But as the story unfolds, things aren't as they appear. And what worked so well about this film was the way in which we the viewer are handed the story - in a way that helps us to determine what happened, even though the "facts" are coming from a character that we can't necessarily trust.
There were a few things that helped for me aided in the success of Martha Marcy May Marlene. For one, the cast was the perfect size, and this resulted in a true feeling of community within the story that lent itself beautifully to a film about a cult commune. There were no distractions. The styling of the characters was simple. There weren't too many details. I never found myself confused or asking questions. I found myself absorbed in the story, wondering what happened to Martha that left her with such a heavy case of PTSD. I found myself eating out of the palm of the cult leader Patrick's hand, only to feel the same betrayal and fear that Martha felt with the turn of events. I never once felt sorry for any of the characters - this film has a lot to do with decision making. With the very definition of right and wrong. And with the ideals and values which various communities are based. It's scary to think that no matter where we end up, or what kind of community we choose to subscribe to, there are always flawed ideologies in every system.
In the end, I wound up watching Martha Marcy May Marlene in the dark, alone, and wound up having nightmares, waking up drenched in sweat. The next day, I went to work, but for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was just going through the motions. Maybe what terrified me wasn't the brainwashing, the violence, or the paranoia of this film, but rather the reality of existing in a complex and rich society that is truly laden with it's own set of brainwashing, violence, and paranoia - 21st century America.
Thanks Brett and Esther, for bringing this movie to me and to the world! You two are wonderful, creative and an inspiration!