Martha Marcy May Marlene is not a movie for everyone. If you like the Transformers trilogy or Avatar, you will not like this. If you check your phone during down times in a movie, this is not for you. If you get frustrated by an ending that leaves space for interpretation, this is most definitely not a movie for you.
But this was a movie for me.
Martha Marcy May Marlene is about a girl who gets involved with what some might call a bohemian movement and what others would deem a cult. We first meet her as she escapes. She reaches out to her sister who she has not spoken to in years. Martha has trouble acclimatizing to the limited outside world she is exposed to through her sister and her brother-in-law.
The movie cuts effortlessly and endlessly back to Martha’s time in the cult to show why she has trouble communicating. It is frustrating that Martha can’t open up to her sister. You want so badly for her to explain why she is so tortured, but that withholding is what keeps your interest in the story and your eyes on the screen.
I was really impressed with such a limited budget, very few actors, and even less locations that the filmmakers behind Martha Marcy May Marlene were able to create such a complete world. The movie is so specific capturing its characters and settings which coupled with the anarchic use of flashbacks makes it seem like the movie was found in a time capsule from the seventies. It is the missing link in a film festival featuring Badlands and Marathon Man.
I’ve wondered before why cults haven’t been more prominent in movies. They’re creepy as hell and filled with intrigue. Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Heaven’s Gate. It’s fascinating to me that someone with a high degree of self-certainty can get certain people to do anything. But according to the amount of attention they currently get in popular culture, you’d think cults disappeared from our society along with pet rocks and velcro shoes. But one of the most frightening things about humanity is its ability to believe just about anything if sold in a pretty package.