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This Canadian movie is really some different approach on a school
massacre movie, made by someone who obviously had a lot to say. It's
shockingly grim and brutal, yet made with artful eyes and a close look
to details, made by a future film genius.
We're immediately drawn into the story, which tells about the horrific shootings at the technical high school in French speaking Montreal in Canada in December 1989. We meet both the shooter and the victims in a film which makes an everyday event like school is, to be a nightmare. The shooter was a young man which have lost his way in life, the meaning of it all, blaming women's liberation, and women in general. It was a great shock to the peaceful Canadian nation, giving the country a shell shock. A true depicted tragedy, here recreated with a horrific feel of the reality in it.
The film has lots of film references. It's filmed in a Hitchcockian style. Some scenes and sounds are even inspired by Psycho. The film is made in black and white, which adds to this feel. The film would have been unnecessary gory if the blood had been red. It's in many ways very similar to Gus Van Sant's Elephant Camera moments are excellent. Angles are eventfully made and at times astonishingly beautiful, adding to the artistic feel. Music is scarce, ambient and adding to the feel. Both things makes us remember this film. The walking in corridors of the school is also quite similar. I also found similarities in the film language with the Swedish "Låt den rette komma in" (Let the right one in). Wonderful and great acted by the main role here. He is terrifyingly without any reason to carry on his life.
Not longer than necessary, which today is a blessing, when we see long movies dragging the story out. A well made film, which forces you to reflect on the event, and others like it. Kudos to the involved. Watch out for director Villeneuve, which gas already made some great stuff. He's gonna make a real important movie in the near future. Actually he right now has got his two latest films, 2011 Oscar nominated "Incendies" and the fresh smash hit "Prisoners", both with 8,2 rating here on IMDb. What a film maker!
From the opening scene of students busy doing their copying in front of
an array of copying machines, and the sudden disruption caused by a
burst of gun fire, Polytechnique grabs the viewers by the collar and
placed them right in the middle of this horrific event that took place
in Montreal in 1989.
The film claimed to be a fictionalized account of the massacre, in which 14 women were killed and many others were wounded, and I don't know to what extent it adheres to facts. But that does not matter. As far as story telling goes Denis Villeneuves did it with skill and without fanfare. B/W images, and a restraint use of dialogue and music add to the mood of this film, which is not an uplifting experience by its very nature. Acting was good by the several male and female leads. Editing was excellent.
Overall, I look at this films as Canadian cinema at its best - despite the depressing nature of the subject matter.
I've read many comments by people stating that this film is bias
because it only reflects the point of view of the victims who were
mainly female and that is just giving support to the feminist movement
but that is not the case.
This film isn't about the shooter, it isn't about the families...it's about the victims/survivors of this horrific ordeal. It does not focus on the background of the killer, it does not explain in great detail why he committed this terrible act of violence... it depicts what the victims/survivors went through.
Some people tend to feel empathic for the shooter, commenting on the fact that he felt prosecuted for his gender and that he felt threatened and hatred for females who in his own opinion were taking jobs away from males who deserved them... Kind of like the two shooters from Columbine who to some people became a icon for anti-bullying, thinking that the only reason they committed these crimes was because they were prosecuted by their peers and the community. It doesn't change the fact that both the Columbine shooters and Marc Lepine took innocent lives and then so cowardly take their own.
Some people liken this movie to "Elephant" and I agree but it also reminds me of "April Showers" since both movies did not focus on the killer but on the people who suffered through the event.
The movie starts off with a bang and if you don't know what this is
about (like me when I watched this, I hadn't read anything about it),
then you will be awed by this very strong beginning. While it's almost
like a documentary, it is very strong and has very good natural
It's not for the faint hearted and it will be a very intense and strange watching experience. You can't say that it will entertain you in the normal sense of that word, but it will be gripping and it will be a movie that you won't forget that easily. Whether you like it or not, it is grim and it is down and dirty.
Denis Villeneuve's second feature film is a respectable and redeeming
depiction of a true incident that occurred on the sixth of December in
1989 when a young man walked into a technical high school in Montreal
and shoot fourteen female students before he pointed the gun at
himself. In the suicide note he left behind, he called himself a
rationalist who's had his life ruined by feminists.
School tragedy's has happened more frequently in the United States, Germany and Finland than any other countries, and been documented by filmmakers such as Michael Moore, Gus Van Sant and Ilmar Raag. In Denis Villeneuve's dramatization of the massacre that occurred 21 years ago at Èscole Polytechnique in Canada, the story is seen from three different points of view and told from two contrasting voice-overs which represents both sides of the story. The Canadian director's use of non-linear narrative and persistent changes of pace gives this film the intensity one often experiences in thrillers, and with the hand-held camera movements, the abrupt takes and sound-mixing, Denis Villeneuve takes the viewer's straight into the minds of the characters who who represents the people who were involved in the incident.
"Polytechnique" is based on the survivors' stories and seen from the point of view of one perpetrator, one victim and one survivor. It's filmed in black-and-white and conveyed through a skilled film language which distances the viewer's from the emotional impact that a documentary might have had, something it manages to do without reducing it's credibility. With his reasoned and lyrical screenplay, Jacques Davidts gives life to the three central characters that where fictionalized in respect of the victims and the survivors of this horrible tragedy. These three characters are credibly portrayed by three good Canadian actors who makes this fictitious reconstruction of a tragic incident an authentic fictional film through their understated performances. What makes "Polytechnique" as good as it is, is that it early on drags it's focus away from the tragedy and dedicates as much time to what took place before and after, and even though it is strongest when it comes to the technical aspects and the narrative, this stringently structured film which deals with severe and controversial themes, is essentially an ode to the victims and the survivors of this horrible incident which unfortunately is only one of many similar incidents that are happening all over the world.
I was put off by one of the very first things you see in this film,
which is a statement in which the filmmakers hope to have their cake
and eat it too. They claim it's "based on a true story" but they then
disrespect the families by saying all characters have been
fictionalized. It's the ultimate disrespect to profit (via cash or
fame) on the misfortune of others, while not even telling their story.
We all know that far fewer people would have chosen to see this movie
if it was titled "Gately College" or something.
While I wasn't expecting a documentary, I was expecting something true to the facts. Now I'm left with the problem of figuring out whether anything in the film was true at all. Did we learn anything about the shooter? Did we learn anything about the victims? Did we learn anything about the responders? No.
Having said that, it did contain some of the most intense shooting scenes I've seen in a film, and for some reason I was also struck by the images of trees. But I was not impressed by the self-indulgent upside-down camera angles.
I think it probably is superior to Gus Van Sant's Elephant (Columbine) film, although it does follow in the same vein of being almost entirely devoid of content. If this is going to be the way that directors and writers depict traumatic mass murders, then they need to stop it.
I'm finding it hard to write an in-depth review about this movie, but
of all the mass murder films I have seen, the imperfections of this
film seem to make it a very good case in point to comment upon. The
thing I most take issue with is how the film makers decided to relate
the film to any real life incidents it was based on, by telling the
viewer upfront at the opening of the film that it was based on the
Montreal massacre, but saying all characters in the film are fictional.
The purpose for this is clearly for nothing other than the
capitalization upon real life human suffering, otherwise really why
would it need to be blatantly stated if the film is a fictional
account? When film makers do that, they knowingly attract the interest
of people in such events, and moreover they place their film on a
pedestal above fiction which tends to endear people towards the film,
however this IS fiction and it is difficult to tell where the fiction
and biogrqaphy begins and ends.
Adding to this tasteless fact, the film makers decided to make their film in black and white (for whatever official reason). The likely and common reason, is that it bestows a certain respectability and legitimacy to the film, a technique used many times before in action dramas which may otherwise come across as exploitative, for if it were in color like most films, it might have been regarded as "just another made for t.v. movie" which to be honest wouldn't be that unfitting.
As to the content, is the film in itself horrible? Not necessarily, though because the scenes depicted are very matter of fact, and mainly action driven with very little dialogue, not to mention that of all the films involving mass murder I've seen, this film shows probably the greatest amount of actual violence, it may not be intended to shock, but there is very little depth outside of what we instantly know the film pertains to.
"Polytechnique" can very easily be compared to "Elephant" in terms of the feel of the film, though Elephant really did seem to have a purpose and real depth and artistry, whereas this film seemed to be merely showing us events. While Gus Van Sant in "Elephant" badly messed up on chronological timing, there isn't much in "polytechnique" to scrutinize other than the fact that in the 30 or so minute range of time that the shooting takes place, it remains questionable that there would be so many people still simply milling about the institution unaware of what was happening for such a long time, though all things said and done, it is very hard to say exactly how such events would play out in reality.
There was very little buildup, very little contemplation on the event, and since I came away from the film feeling empty, and really asking what the point of the film was, ultimately the film just doesn't have very much to say. What it does, is it merely coldly shows us a horrific event without giving it much of a face other than (The shooter hated feminists... so he killed them.) Again, not a horrible movie, but it doesn't possibly in any way do justice to the actual event that took place, which is really a bit shameful.
I hadn't planned on seeing this film but was invited by a friend. Thank
yous came out of my mouth the moment we stepped out of the theater; the
only words which managed to escape my rattled mind.
This is a film which I believe is a must see. Brutal and raw, it breaks a real story into a few basic elements and lets the events speak for themselves. The film depicts the sad events of this day in 1989 with such realism that the viewer feels himself part of the drama, a witness to the violence. Filmed in black and white, and with very similar stylistic elements to Gus Van Sant's Elephant, few words are needed for the director to properly convey the desired range of emotions which take place in the movie.
I must add that there were shots of such beauty which contrasted the ugliness of the shooting in such a moving way that while trying to old back tears at one point, I thought to myself "Life is a wonderful gift.." I have never written a review for this site before, and enjoy a great variety of films: I walked out of the silent, full theater, packed with viewers just as shell shocked as I, thinking that this might have been the most gut wrenching movie experience of my life.
On December 6, 1989, Marc Lepine wrapped his Ruger Mini-14 semi
automatic rifle in a plastic garbage bag, filled the pockets of his
coat with ammunition, and headed off to class at the Montreal's Ecole
Polytechnique, the engineering branch of the University of Montreal. By
the time he was through, fourteen women lay dead, and another ten women
and four men were in critical condition. Lepine culminated his
misogynistic rampage and wretched existence with a bullet to his head,
leaving behind a rambling three page letter railing against feminists
who had turned society against him and ruined his life and everything
good that had been created by man.
Even today the magnitude of the tragedy runs deep in Montreal's collective psyche, and its into this minefield that the film Polytechnique dares to tread, stirring strong sentiments from the public and critics alike for recounting an event whose wounds still live in the consciousness of victims families and survivors.
Filmed in stark black and white, and shot twice, once in French and again in English using the same cast, Director Denis Villeneuve imbues the film with an almost suffocating foreboding as a pallor of death hangs over the day like the snow that gently falls throughout. Rather than dwell on Lepine, he instead shifts the focus to two fictional students, Valérie (Karine Vanasse) and Jean-François (Sébastien Huberdeau), each bringing the perspective of their respective gender to the story.
By framing events through the lives of these two, Polytechnique packs a most powerful punch. With the exception of a bone chilling beginning, Lepine's murderous rampage virtually plays second fiddle to the story of Valérie and Jean-François, which is how Villeneuve wanted it. He studiously avoids dwelling on death, and shifts the film's emphasis to that of life, grappling with tragedy head on, and the aftermath of anguish that exploded that day like so many bullets from Lepine's gun.
This isn't some sensationalist gory ode to a mass murderer, but rather a memorial to the victims of that day. It's not that often you see that in a movie, which makes watching Polytechnique an act of remembrance, and a cause to reflect.
One of the darkest and most tragic events in Canadian history was surely the 1989 "Montreal Massacre" in which a number of female engineering students in a Montreal college were shot and killed by a misogynistic, feminist-hating gunman. This movie is based on those events, although changing the identities of everyone in the movie to the extent that none of the characters were even named as far as I recall. The movie begins with a long recital of a letter by the gunman expressing his hatred of women, and it closes with a long recital of a letter by one of the victims (who survived) expressing how the shooting had impacted her. Between those closing narrations, the story might best be described as "minimal." There's very little dialogue of any kind between any of the characters. The movie focuses more on the reactions of the students as the gunman wanders through the building, shooting any women he encounters. It's shot in black and white, which gives a somewhat "eerie" feeling to this, and it is very suspenseful; the viewer certainly feels the sense of helplessness and chaos that must have been felt by the students. This movie is quite reminiscent of the American movie "Elephant," which was based on the Columbine shooting. I preferred "Elephant" - I thought it made better use of the school setting than this one did. I can't say that I was really keeping track, but I thought this movie also exaggerated the event a bit. The Montreal Massacre was bad enough as it was; in this far more women seemed to be shot than actually were shot in the event itself - although, as I said, I wasn't really keeping track. The best part of this movie is the suspense that's involved. One doesn't really learn anything about the Montreal Massacre. Marc Lepine (the name of the real shooter) was a misogynistic feminist- hater. We already knew that. So, perhaps one wonders what the purpose of this movie was. The opening captions say it was to honour the women killed, and their names did appear in a scroll at the movie's end, but I confess that I honestly didn't think it succeeded in that goal. It was a dramatic enough portrayal of a school-shooting, but it adds nothing to our understanding of the event. 7/10
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