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Review: Martha's Day - Directed by Sofia Monzerratt

Martha Rogers wakes up at home to what seems to be a normal day. However, throughout the day she finds things out of place, her husband has disappeared and a huge existential crisis might come visit her at the peak of her unpredicted isolation. Raising questions regarding meaning and the importance yet non-importance of time.

Martha's Day has a brilliant and simple start: a woman wakes up and strokes her husband’s empty side of bed, her facial expression conveying her anxiety and distress at her husband’s absence. Her appearances keep the viewer in the dark about whether she is suffering from Alzheimer's or something has happened to her husband. The film does not focus much on this scene, the filmmaker has won the audience’s attention, and their curiosity and eagerness to see what awaits them after this spectacular opening.

This association of contradictory signs will continue after the opening, and the audience finds, in addition to scenes from the woman's daily life, strange moments in her behavior: that she sees the rotten fruit which seems to have stood on the table for days, fresh, or while she is brushing her teeth she notices some stains on the mirror, and so on.

Director Sofia Monzerratt

The filmmaker goes on to recount the rest of the narrative with the same subtlety: the woman takes notice of a lighter, a box of cigarettes, and a pair of glasses on the table while reading a book. Martha, who at some brief moments seems to be alienated from her familiar surroundings, has a fascinating character that encourages the viewer to identify with her from the very beginning. Furthermore, Rhoda Pell's fervent acting also adds to the absorbing atmosphere of the film and keeps the viewer curious about what is to come. As the film proceeds, the intensification Martha’s moods combined with the music and the atmosphere of the film, arouse the audience’s suspicions about Martha’s mental health problems even further. As a result, the cut cell phone charging cable becomes an immediate object of strong suspicion bolstering the possibility that she is suffering from a mental disorder. Her unsuccessful attempt to get out of the house confirms this mental image, but at the same time reinforces the possibility that some people, perhaps her children, have imprisoned her in this house.

The woman goes to her laptop and sends a voice message to someone who must be her husband. It is obvious that the WhatsApp is not connected to the Internet, and her previous voice messages have not been listened to. At the same time, the filmmaker surprises the viewer: there is a CCTV camera in the corner of the woman's room. She is under surveillance. Who is watching her? Who owns the cigarettes, glasses and shoes, and who has cut the charging cable? Martha, who is now alarmed and frightened, discovers some bloody clothes in the refrigerator, and then, her husband's body in the bathtub. In utmost fear, she finds herself in a difficult situation: on the one hand, she is stuck in this house, surrounded by unfamiliar signs, on the other hand, she has lost only his hope.

Unable to escape, she once more reaches for her laptop and sends a voice message to Thomas. The director wants to confuse the audience even more. Now they have absolutely no idea what kind of relationship there is between Thomas and Martha and whose corpse is in the tub. The filmmaker manages the signs cleverly and avoids overusing them, thus he prevents the rhythm from dropping off, and keeps the tone uniform. Martha, then, comes to realize she is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease through a videotape previously recorded by her husband, and that her husband has installed these cameras all over the house so that she could watch her recorded daily life and know what had happened. She is so unaware of the events that she is shocked when she understands they have a grandchild.

Martha, who now knows that the CCTV footage is being stored on her husband's laptop, watches the films and the mystery of the corpse in the bathtub is revealed to her. The film has a stunning and horrifying ending: a shocking ending that is exemplary both on paper (as a screenplay) and in action. "Martha's Day" is a movie that can hardly be forgotten.

Focusing on signs and details, the director, Sofia Monzerratt, has been able to create, in a step-by-step fashion, a space in which there is a distance between Martha and the rest of the world--the chasm between the real world and what happens in real, everyday life and what Martha imagines to be real. Martha has to start over every day. She is doomed to surprise. Doomed to repeat the eternal Sisyphean days without being able to take a step forward. Without being able to get through it one day and move to the next day. She is doomed to repeat a day forever, a day that begins like all normal days, and ends horribly. Sofia Monzerratt has shown that with just one character (and the passing presence of two sub-characters), it is possible to make a film in a closed place, a house, that goes far beyond its closed space. A bitter and painful film, which can seriously engage the viewer's emotions.

With his lighting skills and camera movements, Tai Attarangsan, the cinematographer, has greatly assisted the filmmaker in creating a special and unique atmosphere, an atmosphere that is supposed to be real and at the same time, when we see the film for the second time, has a tinge of abstraction in it. The film uses colors carefully and meticulously, and utmost care is taken in costume and scene design to ensure that everything is in the service of the script. Even Martha's dress, with its detailed and intricate pattern, symbolizes the woman’s mental world. The performances, the sound recording, the masterful editing, and the making of the film's eerie sound tape have all gone hand in hand to produce a unique work. The film makes the most of the short film's possibilities, has an admirable compactness and coherence, and leaves its effect in the viewer. Anyone who watches "Martha's Day" can never forget it.


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