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Violent Thresholds

Sights and Sounds of the Cinematic Baroque in Pascal Laugier's Martyrs

Lawrence Alexander

Abstract

This article adopts the category of the cinematic baroque not as a marker of the culturally low, but as a tool of film-philosophical analysis to examine how Pascal Laugier's Martyrs (2008) probes limits of representation and spectatorial experience. I approach the ambivalent functions of bodily, architectural, and filmic thresholds that simultaneously mediate containment and transgression. In this vein, I read the excesses of cinematic violence in Martyrs using Saige Walton's phenomenological model of “baroque flesh” in dialogue with theories of enfolded structures of affective intensity that resist “teleological spectatorship.” Drawing these distinct perspectives together, I consider the visual and aural strategies deployed in Martyrs—from the home invasion to the “screaming point”—to examine the formal characteristics of this film's treatment of screened violence.