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'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Sean Durkin on researching cults [video]

October 20, 2011 |  3:42 pm

Elizabeth Olsen and Sean Durkin

In this latest clip from Friday's Envelope Screening Series Q&A for "Martha Marcy May Marlene," writer-director Sean Durkin gives some insight into how he envisioned the group from which Elizabeth Olsen's title character must escape -- the film dramatizes her struggle to shake herself loose from the emotional and psychological grip of a nameless cult.

In fact, the word "cult" is never used in the film, and actor John Hawkes, who plays the leader of the group, has said he preferred the term "community" to describe them. Picking up aimless young people and drawing them into an agrarian commune run on a darkly oppressive power dynamic and subtle mind games, the group preys upon lost souls such as Olsen's Martha.

Doing some research of his own, adding a bit of imagination and with a keen sense for human behavior, Durkin shows just enough of the group at work to create an unnerving disquiet that carries over to after Martha has reunited with her sister (Sarah Paulson), who has no idea what she is truly dealing with.


No sibling rivalry for Elizabeth Olsen

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Sean Durkin on casting Martha [video]

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Elizabeth Olsen on role prep [video]

-- Mark Olsen


Photo: Elizabeth Olsen and Sean Durkin. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times