Martyrs - 2008
The film begins with a young girl, Lucie, as she escapes from a disused abattoir where she has been imprisoned and physically abused for a lengthy period of time. No signs of sexual abuse are identified, and the perpetrators and their motivations remain a mystery. Lucie is placed in an orphanage, where she is befriended by a young girl named Anna.
Anna soon discovers that Lucie believes that she is constantly being terrorized by a ghoulish creature; a horrible, disfigured, emaciated woman (Isabelle Chasse) covered in scars. Fifteen years later, Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) bursts into a seemingly normal family's home and kills them all with a shotgun. Lucie calls Anna (Morjana Alaoui) to tell her that she has finally found and killed the people responsible for her childhood abuse and requests her help in burying the bodies.
Upon arriving, Anna is horrified at the carnage, and worries that Lucie may have murdered the wrong people. Anna later discovers that the mother is still alive and tries to help her escape. Unfortunately, the two are discovered by Lucie, who bludgeons the mother to death. Lucie is again attacked by the scarred creature, but all Anna sees is Lucie banging her head against the wall and cutting herself with a hobby knife.
The 'creature' is nothing more than a psychological manifestation of Lucie's guilt for leaving behind another girl who was also imprisoned and tortured with her as a child. Lucie tells the apparition that she killed its tormentors and that it can rest, but it has no effect. Lucie finally realizes that her insanity will never leave her and slits her throat. She dies in Anna's arms.
The next day, after mourning her friend's death, Anna attempts to clean up the house and discovers a secret underground chamber. Imprisoned within is a horribly tortured woman, covered in scars, with strange metal contraptions attached to her head and lower body. While Anna attempts to care for her and clean her wounds, a group of strangers arrive and shoot the woman dead. Captured by the menacing newcomers, Anna meets their leader, an elderly lady only referred to as Mademoiselle (Catherine Bégin).
Mademoiselle explains that she belongs to a secret philosophical society seeking to discover the secrets of the afterlife through the creation of "martyrs". She also explains that their society was responsible for Lucie's childhood kidnapping, as she was one of their earlier test subjects. Their experiments inflict systematic acts of torture upon young women in the belief that their suffering will result in a transcendental insight into the world beyond this one.
So far, all of their attempts have failed, and they have only created "victims". Anna becomes their latest subject and is imprisoned in a chamber. After an unspecified period, during which she is repeatedly beaten and degraded, Anna hallucinates a conversation with Lucie, who tells her to "let go" so she won't be afraid any more. Soon after, Anna is told she has progressed further than any other test subject, and has reached the "final stage" and will suffer no more.
Anna is taken to a surgeon and is flayed alive. She survives the procedure, entering a state that is described as being "euphoric" and likened to achieving transcendence. Mademoiselle arrives, eager to speak to Anna about her experience. Anna turns to her and whispers into her ear.
Members of the society begin gathering at the house to learn of the insights Anna shared with Mademoiselle. During the assembly, the MC mentions that there have been only four previous martyrs. As Mademoiselle prepares herself, a doubting member asks her if what Anna said was clear and precise. Mademoiselle replies that there is no room for interpretation, and asks him if he could imagine what comes after death.
When he says no, she tells him to "keep doubting" and places a revolver in her mouth and shoots herself. An intertitle informs the audience that "martyr" is Greek for "witness", followed by the last shot of the film before it cuts to black; a slow zoom into the face of the skinned Anna accompanied by an eerie chorus of voices.