“Well, you know, he says, ‘You were strong, you knew what you wanted, you were full of big ideas, you were worldly, you were wise, you knew yourself.’ And of course…I don’t buy it—twelve is twelve—but I think for Una it’s very confusing. [She asks herself], ‘What did I do?’ Also, because it felt good. She says, ‘I was so happy. I was in love.’ So it’s very confusing. She felt good about this experience and then she was told it was bad. It seems to have ruined her life, but she still yearns to be with him, be close to him, be connected with him.” [x]
from “Reviving Lolita” by Alyssa Harad
In the 2011 film MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, the traumatized Martha is asked, “What the fuck is wrong with you? What the fuck happened to you?”
“I don’t know,” Martha says. “I don’t know.” The words to describe it are out of reach, don’t exist. The violence she experienced—that was done to her, and that she did to others—is literally unspeakable. Her sister and brother-in-law shout these questions louder & louder, growing incensed by her inability to answer. They call her insane, imply that she is dangerous. It never occurs to them that they are asking the wrong questions, seeing her behavior thru the wrong lens, or taking her trauma too personally.
At the end of the film, she is met with certain doom, though the form of it is ambiguous—is she about to be kidnapped or murdered? or is that “just” a psychotic hallucination? will she end up safely transported to the psychiatric treatment center her sister says “looks nice”?
As a viewer, I’m left wondering what are the chances of her being able to find a way to verbalize what happened to her before she’s deemed simply crazy?
I do not think the chances are good.
In November 2011, a story broke in my hometown. I remember reading the headlines in my apartment 100 miles south, feeling sick to my stomach, feeling it all so viscerally, though I couldn’t understand why I saw so much of myself in this story. It took years for me to get there.
1-4. Sarah Kane, Crave