Monday, August 29, 2011
Have you heard about Martha Marcy May Marlene? It's been a darling of this year's festival circuit - The title gives the impression four women share top billing, but in actuality newcomer Elizabeth Olsen (cast only two weeks before shooting), is not only the subject of the multiple monikers, she hauntingly carries the full weight of this dark drama; along with some good, creepy assistance by John Hawkes (Winter's Bone).
The film explores the mind altering experience of cult life. A group of mostly 20-something men and women share an old farm house in upper state New York. The initial impression is one of communal, live off the land, find your role, Utopian society. This impression is short-lived and in its place we come to see a Charles Manson-like, bull-shit philosophy, no escape,dangerous type cult.
In fact, we get such a strong sense of the presence of the cult, it's hard to believe the bulk of the film takes place after Martha (Olsen) has escaped and is taken in by her sister (Sarah Paulson) and new brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy). The cult scenes are technically shown in flashback, but I hate to describe it as such, because that cheapens it. Rather, the director creates and uncanny rhythm of past and present that keeps the viewer as off-kilter as Martha herself.
|Director Sean Durkin, Actress, Elizabeth Olsen 8/22/2011|
I love the camcorder that comes with my new smart phone, but it simply doesn't capture a subject in a dark room without some additional lighting. So, sorry no video of the Q & A, but here's a little excerpt :
Q: Why was it so dark?
Durkin: That's how we shot it. The scenes are intentionally dark, we wanted a very specific look achieved by underexposing the film and certain treatments. We wanted it to be sort of worn, the way the farm feels, and tried to make it replicate life without movie lights.
Q (to Elizabeth): What did you draw on to get all the complexities of the role?
Olsen: I guess what I focused on was her humiliation or embarrassment; not understanding really where she was, or what happened. That type of embarrassment when you don't really know how to speak about it or want to speak about it. We basically did scene by scene focused on the present and tried not to focus on the larger picture of losing identity, but rather what was tangible scene for scene, which was helpful.
Q (to Elizabeth): How much research did you do?
Olsen: That's really a question for Sean, he did so much research, that he was my research.
Durkin: I read about all the different groups that I could. Starting with some bigger more famous ones of the 60's and 70's and then came more focused on the present local groups across the country. After that I started to speak to people who had visited those groups as outsiders and those that had been a part of a group. I knew I had a general interest in this subject and wanted to make a film about it... and eventually decided to focus on what happens when she leaves and how she adjusts to going back into her old life.
Q: Series of 3 questions regarding plot points.
Durkin: No Comment. I'm sorry, again, I just can't answer, I really don't like to talk about things like that. I mean, I put everything in the movie very precisely, like the amount of information, and I just can't expand on it, cause there's a reason that there's only that much information.