So, for those who missed the review of the much-discussed French import shocker Martyrs, the plot of said film revolves partially around a cult of atheistic spiritualists who endeavor to gain hard evidence of the persistence of life after death by torturing captives into a nebulous state of being suspended between mortality and life.
Apparently, that method kinda sorta but doesn't really work.
According to a 1984 study recently rediscovered by the brains at Mind Hacks, one out of every four hostages put in "life-threatening situations" experiences intense visions. "Isolation, visual deprivation, physical restraint, violence and death threats" contribute to the experience.
Unfortunately, these visions are hallucinations.
The 1984 study included case studies from a wide variety of subjects: people who have been held captive by terrorists, kidnappers, rapists, robbers, enemy troops, and even (alleged) UFOs. (The latter were added to include cases of unverified periods of captivity.) The paper is free, but the repeated stories of captivity make for intense and not particularly fun reading.
Now there's no reason that the makers of Martyrs knew of this study, but it is interesting. Given the fact that one of the characters in the film has a hallucinatory avenging spirit hanging about her, would it be totally roaming off the reservation to theorize that this cult is really just repeatedly abusing folks in a hallucinatory state. But they, unaware of how common hostage hallucinations are, have convinced themselves that they are receiving visions of the beyond. Consequently, this cult just keeps torturing folks on the basis of a handful of mental breakdowns they erroneously take to be "visions."
Could that be why Garrett Vader kills herself after telling her follow cultist to "live in doubt"? Perhaps it isn't a mean-spirited act, but one meant to save the cult from becoming disillusioned and realizing that they been not only murderous, but utterly moronic? That would make her the titular martyr, in a way.
I like the idea that one of their victims – the one with the attached faceplate – serves as an allegory for their entire project. She literally cannot see, but they continue to whip her into what they assume will be a visionary state. She's a nearly literal example of the blind leading the blind.
Makes the whole thing a sort grim comedy of misinterpretation.