Polytechnique (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Polytechnique</strong> (2009)

(On Cable TV, January 2019) I suspect that Polytechnique received a lot more interest in recent years now that its director Denis Villeneuve has become a major Hollywood director. But it’s a great, hard-hitting in its own right as it takes on the tragic events of the Montréal Polytechnique shooting of December 6, 1989, as a springboard for a drama that’s not quite a re-creation. Much of the basic facts, as horrible as they were, are faithfully reused here—the shooter specifically targeting women, and the helplessness of the male students as they were unable to help their classmates. But Polytechnique adds a layer of fiction that help navigate a fine line between attempting to re-create the event, and adding another layer of tragedy for the survivors of the events. The broken chronology gives false hope and brings us back very reluctantly to the heart of the massacre. Unable and unwilling to shoot the movie at the school itself, Villeneuve nonetheless gives an unsettling layer of authenticity to the result. Polytechnique is deliberately shot in black-and-white for ever starker realism, adopting cinema-vérité aesthetics in a way to reduce the distance between the events and the viewer, an effective choice to present events very familiar to many of its French-Canadian viewers. It’s visually raw, but carefully controlled in its technique. Polytechnique is not easy to watch and it’s liable to linger for a few days/weeks/months, but it’s a mesmerizing film … and probably one that most will never re-watch again.

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