With all the current focus on The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. I thought I would discuss one of the new cast members and relative unknowns Elizabeth Olsen aka Scarlet Witch.
Her first feature film appearance was in the independent drama MARTHA MARCY MAY… Oh I Give Up I dont know which is her name!
Here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_k3wCsOgqk
A peaceful farm becomes a darkened dinner table full of young men quietly eating whilst intently avoiding eye contact, while the women stand outside on baited breath listening for any murmurs of discontent. Marcy May (Olsen) runs into a forest and hides whilst being followed by a young man. All of the above takes place with very little dialogue only helpings to further our sense of foreboding. The first real conversation takes place with the young man finding Marcy May, alone in a diner, and chastising her for leaving. Olsen (now helpfully named Martha) then makes an intense and emotional phone call to her sister, Lucy, ending it with a confused and painful, ”I can’t leave now”. Lucy (Sarah Paulson) picks Martha up and brings her to the lake house where she lives with her husband (Hugh Dancy). This is the film’s real question. How do you adapt to a new, better life when still haunted by a traumatic past? Especially since the past makes you what you are. Philosophy aside. I struggle with this all the time. I keep ordering food from the same take away. I keep giving them another chance. But deep down I know that I’m just going to get food poisoning again!
The films switches seamlessly between Martha’s increasingly paranoid behaviour at the lake house with her sister and her previous life at the tranquil commune. One of Martha’s first interactions in her new home is to go for a swim in the public lake absolutely naked. Martha doesn’t understand her sister’s shock and anger, much less that this is not normal behaviour. The focus of the scene stays with Lucy, while in the background Martha runs down to the lake and goes swimming. This projects a childlike innocence and naivety, while focusing on how normal this seems. Until both you and Lucy, simultaneously, realise what she has done. This cuts straight to Martha and the other commune members swimming naked together. This is a remarkable scene which if not done so well could easily have become an intro to a high budget porno titled, ‘‘The Lady In The Lake’’. By recent cinematic standards this is an achievement in itself. Contrast this with Megan Fox in Michael Bay’s Transformers series and TNMT for ideas how to sexualize everything: fixing a car, getting on and off a motorbike, a seductive robot who then tries to kill you, a reporter bending out the window of a moving van, turtles, cars, robots again…. God I hate Michael Bay! …Huh?… 2 more transformers movies?!!…. At least?!….And a TNMT sequel?!…Fuck this I’m out!…………………..
Each act of Martha increasing paranoia leads into a Marcy May commune scene. Each new bit of information is, in retrospect, never enough to completely explain Martha’s actions. You leave each scene with curiosity partially satisfied whilst never knowing the whole truth. What you see is harrowing, intense and at times stomach churning but we never see the full extent of the control, manipulation and abuse Martha endured at the commune. These transitions between Martha’s memories and reality; force the audience to ride the line between sanity and delusion with Martha. The cuts are clever and beautifully thought out. So much so that the only thing like it is trying to decipher which drunk texts you sent and which were an alcohol induced fever dream. Only to find you already deleted your messages, in a whirlwind of drunken rage and guilt.
The commune’s elaborate ‘’cleansing’’ ceremony is as enjoyable as it sounds and worse to watch. It completes Martha’s transformation from innocent victim into Marcy May; an indoctrinated, complicit and committed member of the commune. [INSERT LINDSAY LOHAN/MILEY CYRUS JOKE HERE]. I won’t give too much away but the ‘’cleansing’’ is less puppies, sunshine and rainbows and more like the film ‘’Source Code’’ but instead of defusing a bomb every 8 minutes you just have to kill a puppy.
The film boils down to two relationships. Marcy May and Patrick, the commune’s charismatic leader and Martha and her sister, Lucy. Marcy May is enticed by Patrick and quickly lets her guard down to find a controlling, manipulative and abusive patriarch. In contrast, Lucy, who is guilt driven to compulsively act as Martha’s surrogate mother, genuinely cares and loves her. For this Lucy is met with a constant icy, evasiveness. This is the power Patrick holds over both Marcy May and Marlene
Now so far I have avoided the C WORD and for good reason, it is a show stopper. But there’s no way round it. The commune is in every sense of the word a C-U-errmm-L-T. CULT. Think the Manson’s with less murder meets the Westborough Baptist Church minus all that God stuff. Patrick appears a caring teacher on the surface with his mantra of helping people find their place. But under the skin is the real Patrick: menacing, possessive and predatory. He uses isolated young women’s insecurities and weaknesses to idolize himself.
What are Patrick’s motivations? How do people end up at the commune? What pushed Martha there? Why do they all use the alias Marlene Lewis when answering the phone? These questions make the film and its ending all the more intriguing and unsettling. It is best to leave people wanting more rather than full, gassy and noxious. See the Roman vomitoriums for confirmation.
Elizabeth Olsen carries this film with an exceptional performance. I enjoyed this subtle thriller and would recommend it!
RATING: ‘’I’M A TEACHER AND A LEADER… AND SCARLET WITCH’’