When this controversial French film was released earlier this year, many critics condemned it as torture-porn, criticising its relentlessly brutal nature so strongly, you’d think the devil himself was distributing it. I have sympathy with this view – Martyrs is a shockingly violent ordeal, repulsive and visceral in extreme levels. But it is so much more than yet another torture-porn movie. There is actually an intelligent, powerful and profound point to the violence the viewer is made to witness. And when the twist is revealed, the impact is brilliantly controlled.
To say any more would dilute the momentous power of what follows, but I shall express my admiration of the film’s use of poetic cinematography and its exceptional capacity to shock with intellectual power. The final moments carry an extraordinary amount of gravity and profundity, making this one of the most brave, powerful and important films in recent European cinema.
Martyrs (2008), directed by Pascal Laugier, is released on blu-ray and DVD in the UK by StudioCanal, Certificate 18. Due to the film’s subject matter, viewers may wish to check the consumer advice on the film at www.bbfc.co.uk.