Martha Marcy May Marlene at the Envelope Screening Series by the Los Angeles Times

Martha Marcy May Marlene at the Envelope Screening series by the Los Angeles Times. Is what you see actually happening or is it all the fantasies of a mentally ill person?

Martha Marcy May Marlene our first review of the start of the Academy Awards ® screening season. Which film being ran for consideration by the guild members will get the nomination? Starring in the title role was Elizabeth Olsen in only her third featured role in a film.

The plot focuses on a young woman suffering from delusions and paranoia after returning to her family from an abusive cult in the Catskill Mountains.

It premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in January with Sean Durkin winning the festival’s U.S. Directing Award for Best Drama. It also screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. The film is set for a limited release in the United States on October 21, 2011.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a psychological thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Martha, a young woman rapidly unraveling amidst her attempt to reclaim a normal life after fleeing from a cult and its charismatic leader Patrick (John Hawkes). Seeking help from her estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy), Martha is unable and unwilling to reveal the truth about her disappearance. When her memories trigger a chilling paranoia that her former cult could still be pursuing her, the line between Martha’s reality and delusion begins to blur

The film focuses on Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), a young woman who flees from an abusive cult in the Catskill Mountains that is led by an enigmatic leader, Patrick (Sarah Paulson). Lucy (Sarah Paulson), Martha’s older sister, receives a call from a pay phone one day from Martha, asking her to come and get her. Martha, hasn’t communicated with her sister in years, slowly begins to assimilate into her sister’s family, but her increasing paranoia leads her to believe that Patrick and his cult may still be watching her every move.

Attending the Q&A session for the film immediately following the film was the films writer and director Sean Durkin, Elizabeth Olsen whom played the leading role of Martha Marcy May Marlene , Sarah Paulson whom played the sister Lucy and John Hawkes playing the Mansion family type guru Patrick.

Disturbing was the one word that you could hear the women buzzing about in the ladies room. Disturbing because of the physical similarities of Charles Manson, how the women were drawn into and the peer pressure of the cult, and how death was justified.

For those such as I whom lived thru the 60’s and the commune hippy movement there was something very frightening about what was up on the screen. When you think that right now in 2011 you’re seeing these same types of people occupying Wall Street with the very same mantra as was in this film. The man is only interested in wealth and success.

What we learned at the Q&A was that allot of what went on upon the screen dealing with why things were the way they were between Martha Marcy and her sister Lucy was worked out between Olsen and Paulson whom played the roles. In the film, they flashed the reason why to give each an understanding why they reacted the way that they were. Strangely, you begin to understand how and why cults exist.

The idea was that they did while filming belonged to them but when the film was seen by the audience the film then belonged to the audience and it was then up to audience to fill in the blanks as to why things were the way they were.

Considering there was so much underlying and open violence in the film it’s hard to see how the writer and director could be such a calm and sedate individual. He did say while he loved horror films he also loved the building up of the movie, as he also said about car crash films, he simply could not go there. The psychological impact of what you were seeing on the screen drove his creative juices more than anything else could.

To me it was a strangely slow film with no rhythm to it but somehow managed to put two years of explaining what went on when Martha Marcy May Marlene first appeared into this short frame of time.

The ending of the film seemed strange and out of place. It led nowhere which was simply explained by Durkin that there was no need to go further with the character. That would have been another film not the one seen on the screen.

During the movie, Martha asked Lucy about knowing the difference between a dream and reality. In reality was it was anything but the opening of the film you see actually happening or is it all the fantasies of a mentally ill person?

That decision is up to you the audience to make.

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