If, as we've been told, we've been wrong, wrong, wrong, and there are no cults (or even cultish thinking) within what's been called "mainstream" society, why is the Sundance Film Festival all of a sudden filled with movies about the phenomena?
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's little sister, Elizabeth, starred in Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene, a nonlinear thriller about a traumatized, voluptuous escapee from a Manson-esque sex cult. It was picked up by Fox Searchlight,...So what's our answer to the question?
The boom-time mania on the ground was matched by a different kind of collective lunacy on screen. Cults and other spiritual rebellions were a big theme this year — not only in Martha and the Lost-like Sound but also in Vera Farmiga's crowd-pleasing women's picture Higher Ground, Kevin Smith's scattered genre-fuck Red State, and Miranda July's spacey-comic The Future, which, like Jeff Nichols' humorless Take Shelter, turns the angst of frustrated 35-year-olds into fodder for surrealism.
When asked about this mystical trend at a Q&A for Sound, Marling noted that "a cult is an instant way to find meaning." Or, to quote the narrator of The Woods, Matthew Lessner's psychedelic satire of hipster back-to-nature idealism, "It felt good to believe in something other than myself. And I figured, at the very least, it would make for a killer blog entry." The only Sundance film about cults that could actually have life as a cult film, The Woods has the greatest comic insight into why our current culture might inspire a search for meaning in the first place.
Y'all are in major denial.