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Martha Marcy May Marlene

Every now and again you see a movie that reminds you of the importance of a fresh, new perspective in filmmaking. "Martha Marcy May Marlene," directed by newcomer Sean Durkin, is one of those films. Every frame crackles with Durkin's perspective, and oh what a hauntingly beautiful perspective it is. This is a movie of subtraction: it lingers on the scenes between the action/conflicts and tells its story in more of a reductive fashion. This works well for the subject, a young woman (Martha) who escapes a cult in the Catskill Mountains and is trying to put things back together after a traumatic experience with the group. The movie alternates between Martha's flashbacks to of the cult's austere environment and the modern, minimalism of her sister's home in Connecticut, where she seeks refuge.

One of the things I was most impressed with was how Durkin revealed the pros and cons of each way of life. The cult is not all bad, eschewing material excess for a simpler lifestyle, and Martha's condescendingly caring sister with all her financial security is not all good. But at the end of the day, the cult is an amoral band of criminals clinging to the sophistic preachings of their charismatic leader to justify their violent actions. Martha starts to see through these hollow philosophies, which is what leads to her wanting to escape. But Durkin lets us see things in an unfiltered way, without trying too hard to make the sect the bad guy.

I give this movie a high recommend.


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