Welcome to the Ending Explained for Martyrs, a 2008 film written and directed by Pascal Laugier and starring Morjana Alaoui, Mylène Jampanoï, Catherine Bégin, and Isabelle Chasse. The film tells the story of Anna and Lucie, two girls who are threatened by the existence of a vicious cult that looks to prove the existence of the afterlife through the use of torture. Since its release, Martyrs is a very violent movie. It has become one of the most controversial films ever, not only for its scenes but also because of the themes the movie uses at its core.
Martyrs is a very strange and shocking movie. Director Pascal Laugier knew what he was doing when writing and filming the film. He extracts very good performances from his actors, especially regarding the kids in the film and the two main characters.
The character of Mademoiselle has also become an iconic villain in the horror genre. However, the film’s ending sparked much speculation and tons of theories. The ending is meant to be a mystery for audiences to answer themselves. Still, here we will approach some possible answers to the afterlife dilemma presented in the movie.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Martyrs. Read at your own risk.
Why did Lucie kill herself?
Martyrs opens with a young Lucie escaping from a slaughterhouse where she has been held for over a year. The troubled kid escapes, and she is rescued and put into an orphanage. There, she meets and befriends Anna, our other main character. Anna and Lucie grow up, and Anna falls in love with Lucie.
It is implied that she is her sort of soulmate, and they have been through a lot together. However, while Lucie and Anna have found love in each other, Lucie is still being followed by the terrible events of her childhood.
One day, we see Lucie entering the house of the Belfond family. In a gruesome and powerful scene, she eliminates the husband, wife, and two kids with a shotgun. It makes no sense. Why would Lucie kill such a beautiful family? When Anna arrives at the place, she is horrified by what Lucie has done, and yet she still decides to help Lucie despite all of it. It seems like her love for Lucie is greater than her morals. We learn that Lucie believes this family was responsible for her childhood trauma.
However, seeing that the family’s death hasn’t really alleviated her pain, Lucie decides to commit suicide. Lucie chooses the easy way out. It is harder to face life and fight the battle that is every day.
Anna later finds a woman locked in the house’s basement; she has been abused. This proves that Lucie was right about the family. The woman is clearly out of her mind at this point. People arrive at the scene, eliminate the woman, and capture Anna. It is here that Anna meets Mademoiselle, the film’s antagonist.
We learn from Mademoiselle that she is the leader of a strange organization that looks to confirm the existence of an afterlife. How do they do this? They do it by abusing innocent people. They push these people to the point of enlightenment, hoping they can glimpse the other side. Mademoiselle now has control over Anna, and she will become their new subject. Anna has no idea the horrors she will face at the hands of this organization in the name of knowledge.
Why did Mademoiselle kill herself?
After this point, the movie presents Mademoiselle’s cult, and we go through a series of tortures where Anna experiences insurmountable pain. Mademoiselle presents the cult’s mission as the search for knowledge. However, the more she speaks, the more she presents herself as a rather stupid individual.
She has dedicated her entire life to a search that doesn’t really matter. She doesn’t affiliate herself or her cult with any organized religion, and yet, she behaves just like the leader of one. She is so centered on her search that she doesn’t see any point in it.
In the end, Anna is tortured enough to glimpse something from beyond. She shares her discovery with Mademoiselle, who then decides the answer is worth dying for. She utters “keep doubting” to her followers before committing suicide. While in very different situations, Mademoiselle’s suicide parallels Lucie’s suicide very closely.
Two people who would rather die than face the consequences of their actions. They would rather die than start to live in the present when their quests were proven pointless.
The cult’s goal of proving the existence of the afterlife has no purpose if there is no information on how to get there. Are there rules and terms that need to be accomplished to enter the afterlife? Maybe no parameters need to be followed; if so, the cult’s research is still pointless, as we will all get there at some point.
The same goes if the answer is that there is no afterlife. This also makes their research pointless, as there is nothing actually to research. All the cult members have been following Mademoiselle and torturing innocent people for nothing.
No matter what Anna tells Mademoiselle, her reaction clearly tells us that she has failed. Mademoiselle realizes, just like Lucie did that her crimes have brought her no peace and no closure to the mysteries they were trying to dispel. Instead, they have only caused pain and suffering.
Mademoiselle chooses to die rather than face her failure as a cult leader. However, in one last misguided act of mercy and hubris, Mademoiselle tells her followers to “keep doubting.” Instead of revealing the truth of their failure, she lies to them, perpetuating the cult’s existence after her death.
This decision spares the rest of the cult members from facing the failure of their search and the pointlessness of their crimes. However, it also assures that the cult will keep torturing innocent people for the foreseeable future.