First Time Directors

Very few films resemble the structure of Martha Marcy May Marlene. The story follows a young girl, Martha (Elizaebth Olsen), both when she was a part of a cult and when she leaves it to try to relive a normal life. The psychological drama doesn’t give you the introduction of how Martha made it into the cult, which one would expect to take up the first act, and the film also ends on a scene that would’ve been the beginning of any other story’s third act. Martha Marcy May Marlene features subverted conventions, bare-boned exposition, and a whole lot of ambiguity. However, writer/director Sean Durkin never approached his drama to deliberately “subvert conventions,” it just happened to turn out that way. Durkin confessed to never quite getting the lessons from screenwriting courses, and perhaps that was for the better. By avoiding expected screenwriting tropes, in his feature debut, Durkin made an anti-cliche cult film. There are no heroes. There is no third act bang. Plus, the moral compass of the film, Ted (Hugh Dancy), is almost as off-putting as the ambiguous cult leader, Patrick (John Hawkes). Clearly, not your regular “cult” film. Here’s what Sean Durkin had to say about cracking the structure of Martha Marcy May Marlene, approaching the story with a fresh perspective, despising lazy flashbacks, and the mysterious ways of the warm and scary community leader, Patrick:

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I love and believe in this movie so strongly, that I’m urging everyone I know to go see it. And I’m going to see it again tonight. And once more over the weekend at least. Why am I so enthusiastic? I give you seven reasons inside.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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