Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Polytechnique (2009)

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers:  Jacques Davidts, Denis Villeneuve
Cast:       Maxim Gaudette, Sebastian Huberdeau, Karin Vanasse
Language: French

A dramatization of the Montreal massacre of 1989 where several female engineering students were murdered by an unstable misogynist. The film is shot in Black and White and the version that I saw was the French one. It is said to be a fictional dramatization of the massacre in which 28 people were shot at with 14 women dying. The massacre was a major spur for Canadian gun control movement.

I didn't know the exact premise of the film going into it and the film makes it clear from the first scene itself with a gunfire at a photocopying booth. Film is told mainly from three perspectives-that of the killer, a male student and a female mechanical engineering student. Director jumps through timelines and gives a dispassionate account without feeling the need to make it as if it is a big social message. Since I didn't know about the real life background of the event, I was bemused by the premise that someone will do a massacre targeting what he sees as 'Feminists'. In India also, if you go by twitter, there is a tendency to blame 'Femi-Nazis' (their term for feminists) for all sorts of things and it is not surprising coming from people who are opposed to reservation (Indian version of affirmative action to combat caste based discrimination). Many don't realize the default privileges that they enjoy and have a notion that they get to where they are through their own 'hard work' entirely.

It was interesting to see that in the developed world also, females taking up mechanical engineering would raise eyebrows, at least in 1989. In India, it is very common to have male only mechanical engineering batches. The killing spree in the film starts in a mechanical engineering class where the killer asks the female students and male students to split up. He then accuses female students of being feminists for taking up the course they did and starts the shooting. He commits suicide after the killing spree and the cause that he took up was identified as anti-feminism based on his own oral statements during the killing and targeting of females during the shooting. The massacre also sparked off controversies, as initially the male students were criticized for not intervening and later on feminists were criticized for using the murder to promote their cause.

Overall it is a great watch and it being in black and white affords the director an opportunity to show the gruesomeness. A droning sound is used as BGM when the story is shown from the perspective of the killer, which reminded me of 'Under the Skin'. Despite the subject matter, it is an exquisite film visually. The fact that the killer had a motive makes the film more interesting to watch. Denis Villeneuve is a very promising director even though the film for which he got all the acclaim, 'Prisoners', is hugely overrated. If I were to rank his films, it would be like:

1) Enemy
2) Polytechnique

His latest film. Sicario, has been very well received by the critics and I can't wait to watch it. He is also slated to direct the upcoming Blade Runner project as well.

Rating: 4/5