Tag Archive | Elizabeth Olsen

Silent House on a slippery slope

Hot on the heels of wrapping on her first film Martha Marcy May Marlene, Elizabeth Olsen dove straight into her second role, an intense week-long shoot for Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s “one continuous shot” feature Silent House.  Not only is Silent House a remake of the 2010 Uruguayan film La casa muda (supposedly based on a true story from a Uruguayan village in the 1940s) but it also lifts the same gimmicks the original utilised and, for all intents and purposes, contains a bare minimum of originality.

The premise is simple and the idea is a novel one (or at least in the original film it was).  A single hand-held camera follows the central character, Sarah, as she revisits the old family home with her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) in order to tidy it up before putting it on the market.  It would appear that the first act, up to the point where the action spills briefly to outside the house, is one long take.  However, the truth is that the film is composed of a series of takes spliced together to mimic the effect of the original.  In and of itself, that’s not a major issue and the editing is virtually seamless until the third act.  In the final 20 minutes it becomes easier to see the cuts, though Silent House would be lucky if this was the sole problem the climax presents.  As with many films of its horror/psychological thriller ilk, all the tension and suspense built up in the first two acts rely on a strong payoff to in order to have any import.  Even the greatest of set-ups is rendered meaningless when the rug is subsequently pulled from beneath the viewer.  So when Silent House unleashes its reveal, the wheels come flying off.  Amidst the wait-a-minutes and the whats is the very simple fact that the film has been lying to its audience all along.
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Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene will not be a film for everyone, but for those interested in a brilliant portrait of psychological trauma, it’s a must see.  Starring Elizabeth Olsen in the title role (which sounds odd to start with, but is actually ingenious) of the damaged young woman, Durkin’s first feature is remarkably assured in tackling a subject Hollywood typically steers clear of.

Martha Marcy May Marlene: opens 3 February in the UK

Initial scenes illustrate the life of a cult on farm in up-state New York’s Catskill Mountains, led by the soft-spoken Patrick (John Hawkes). The men dine first and separate from the women, who share clothing and rooms with mattresses on the floor.  In the early morning hours, Martha quietly makes her way out of the house and darts off into the woods.  Outside a diner she reluctantly speaks to a relative on nearby payphone who insists on picking her up. After an indeterminate amount of time, Martha is seen getting into a car and is taken to her older sister Lucy’s (Sarah Paulson) home in Connecticut.  Once past the set-up, the plot cuts back between Martha’s struggle to readjust to life outside of the cult and pivotal moments from her time at the farm.  She lashes out at her sister, unable to relate to the world she now inhabits. As drawn to the cult as she is terrified of it, Martha sinks into deep, debilitating paranoia testing the patience of newlywed Lucy and her husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy).
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