Movie Scenes That Broke My Brain–Martyrs

In the years that I’ve been married to the Fahnz, I’ve seen more interesting movies than in the years leading up to us meeting. We’ve developed a habit of discussing the stuff that really moves us–music, visuals, performances–and it made me think about what movie scenes I’ve seen in the last ten years of my life that truly stunned me.

So here begins a list, in no particular order because I don’t believe in quantifying stuff numerically, of movie scenes (from my last ten years) that broke my brain.

Anna Speaks, Martyrs (2008, Pascal Laugier)


Any time I talk about Martyrs I get bitter.

Not because it’s bad; on the contrary, it is one of the most incredible pieces of philosophy I’ve ever seen, couched neatly in the New French Extremity movement of film making and a new immersion in human horror. The notion behind the movie is that with pain comes transcendence, and that only women are capable of that level of understanding because it is women who are born to suffering. It’s an incredible allegory for the role of female agony in current society, it’s very hard to watch, and I will likely never watch it again.

But I am glad I did, just that once.

No, I get bitter because Pascal Laugier was short-listed to direct the Hellraiser reboot, and with Martyrs had proven himself more than capable of handling the true horror-based eroticism of the original Clive Barker short story. Barker himself felt that Laugier was the best possible choice, but Laugier was not as easily accepted by the money men and stepped off the film because of “creative differences” (aka he was gonna GO THERE and they didn’t want to try to sell it) in 2009.

So we sit with four Laugier films, one of which I adore because it was written in a fit of darkness and depression and challenges the idea of what it means to live in constant pain. It transcends. And yet I don’t want to describe the film that much. It’s damn near impossible to do so without sapping it of its power. Amazingly enough, the scene that defines it for me doesn’t even happen until the end, and it’s a doozy.

Imagine that you’re the head of a secret society that attempts to understand the connection between pain and transcendence. And imagine that you’ve accomplished this. A woman lies in her bed, bereft of all but the agony you’ve inflicted upon her. She whispers to you, tells you the answer for which you have tortured and sacrificed and suffered all your life. What do you do?

Go watch Martyrs. Just once. Trust me, and I’m sorry.

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