Epistemartha, Epistemarcy, Epistemay, Epistemology

What did you think of that discomforting final moment in Martha Marcy May Marlene?

Michael Leary is talking about it at Filmwell… 

Some critics and audiences have had difficulty with the indeterminate ending of Martha Marcy May Marlene, which slips from the screen in a moment of paranoia that provides no conventional closure for Martha’s (or Marlene’s?) plight. But this misses the concrete focus of the film on the way experiences of a religious community can have a dramatic effect on not just our body-consciousness, but even our physical responses to various memories and confrontations. The almost dreamlike note on which the film ends evokes the epistemological dismay that occurs when our theoretical labels for religious communities and experiences begin slipping. (Which is not an experience limited to people trying to exit fringe religious communities. This dismay is – in essence – the heart of any religious experience.) This is where Durkin’s film excels…

My own review of the film was published at Image.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.


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