Saturday, 25 February 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene

As ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ starts, Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is running away, from what we’re not sure yet. She’s also pursued, by one of her new ‘family’ but strikingly he doesn’t take her back. Instead she calls her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), whom she hasn’t spoken to for two years, but nonetheless Lucy drives three hours to pick up her younger sister.

From there they go to Lucy and her husband Ted’s (Hugh Dancy) holiday home in Connecticut. Martha won’t say much about where she’s been for the last two years, why she hasn’t called or what she’s running away from. Well apart from ‘boyfriend trouble’... ‘we had a fight’ you know.

In flashbacks we learnt that Martha has been living in a farmhouse with a host of other runaways where they are under the ‘leadership’ of the creepy and controlling, some would say charismatic, Patrick (John Hawkes). A man with a unique philosophy on life. ‘Death is but a continuation, not an end’... etc.

In this little commune, a woman's role is subservient. They all share their clothes, belongings, themselves... and sleep together on mattresses in the same room. They work around the house, in the garden and in the kitchen. They are only allowed to eat once the men have finished.

Patrick enchants Martha by singing her a song, renaming her Marcy May and making her feel as if she belongs. Which she will, once she’s undergone the initiation ceremony. Which is to be given drugs and then shagged by Patrick. Apparently, the house has many of his babies but they’re all boys...

Once she’s done a runner, Martha has problems readjusting to normal life. Her sister and her husband try to accommodate her despite her sometimes difficult attitude. Sleeping at the end of their bed whilst they are having sex etc.

Which highlights the film’s only real flaw, that she has unlearnt so many things that would have been embedded in her head from being a young child. Such as putting a swimsuit on when you swim in public and not swimming in the nude.

Otherwise it’s a clever and engrossing film, exploring how a person can get manipulated and brainwashed into an alternative way of life.

I like a film that poses more questions than answers, like this one does. Towards the end things start to happen that are simply not explained. She damages a car but whose car? Or did she? Did she really escape when she ran away or is it all so immersed in her that she may never truly escape? Is that why they didn’t come after her? Because they were confident that there was no escape in her mind and that she will eventually return of her own accord...

The film leaves us unsure of what is real. Are the things that are now happening really happening or are they just in Martha's mind? She thinks that she is being tracked down but is she? The film leaves us in the same state of mind as Martha. Confused. Wondering what is real and what isn’t. She doesn't know the answers, so how could we?


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