This year's Envelope Screening Series kicked off Friday night with a showing of "Martha Marcy May Marlene" followed by a Q&A with the film's writer-director, Sean Durkin, and three of its stars, Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson and John Hawkes. One of the breakout hits to emerge from the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the film has since accomplished the rare feat of also screening at the Cannes, Toronto and New York film festivals.
The film covers the initiation and aftermath of a young woman (Olsen) being inducted into and escaping from a small, back-to-nature cult (though that word is never used) overseen by a darkly charismatic leader (Hawkes). Once she makes her getaway, the woman lands with her long-estranged sister (Paulson), who has no idea what her sibling has been through.
Powerfully quiet and disconcerting for its nerve-jangling sense of unease, the film purposefully leaves viewers with questions as to just what has happened to the girl -- how and why did she end up there in the first place -- as well as whether she is now, or will ever be, truly free of her torments. In the clip below, Olsen and Paulson talk about how they grappled with the delicacies of crafting performances that would allow open spaces for viewers' own interpretations.
-- Mark Olsen
Photo: From left, John Hawkes, Elizabeth Olsen, Louisa Krause and Christopher Abbott in a scene from "Martha Marcy May Marlene." Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures