2016’s ‘Martyrs‘ Tries To Give Hope But Loses Its Heart
Originally part of the “New French Extremity” film movement, 2008’s ‘Martyrs‘ was an exercise in nihilism. The 2016 “re-imagining” focuses more on giving the young women in the film hope. The American remake, directed by Kevin and Michael Goetz, utterly misses the mark for what this story needs. I do believe artists should be able to interpret something as they please. It’s their creative choice and sometime it works out great. Just not in this particular case. You need that feeling of hopelessness to fully get the power of ‘Martyrs‘.
This seems to be a common problem with American films; there has to be a sense of hope, if not the filmmakers fear they will lose the audience. Throughout the ‘Martyrs‘ remake, we never get as dark as the original did. In an effort to hold back, the directors decided to lessen the gore to focus on less visual horror but in doing so, they also lost the psychological horror as well.
The story is about a woman named Lucie who escapes horrendous torture at 10 years of age and returns later in life to avenge the crimes done to her. Along side is her Anna, a girl who she befriends after the torture. Their relationship is tested when Lucie finds the people who tortured her and gets her revenge. This is the start of a sick & twisted tale of revenge and martyrdom. Something handled well in 2008, not so great in 2016.
An example being the fate of tragic character Lucie. In the 2008 version, she doesn’t make it out of the second act alive. While in this new film, her suicide becomes a sad failed attempt. Watching the original film for the first time, this felt like watching Marion Crane die in ‘Psycho’ all over again; so unexpected, so impactful. Now we just see Lucie limp her way to the finish of the film when she should have been left behind.
Another big change as pointed out by reviewer Stephany Slaughter is the dramatic change in relationship between the girls. Gone is the “ride or die” chick that Anna once was. At the first sign of insanity, she runs to call the police. There was a deep connection between the girls in the French film; they loved and trusted each other at first. This new relationship gave us no real reason to be invested. A few chocolate-chip cookies doesn’t sell me on love…
So why do we “re-imagine” a film so niche that the original audience will hate anything new & the new audience won’t full grasp what you are trying to convey? It’s a question everyone asked since the project was first announced and something we continue to ask. I respect the Goetz Brothers for loving the original ‘Martyrs‘ so much that they wanted to give their take on it but unfortunately this movie just comes off like a hollow comparison of the former.