Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Denis Villeneuve|
|Music by||Benoit Charest|
|Edited by||Richard Comeau|
Polytechnique is a 2009 Canadian film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Villeneuve and Jacques Davidts. Set in Montreal, Quebec and based on the École Polytechnique massacre (also known as the "Montreal Massacre"), the film documents the events of December 6, 1989, through the eyes of two students who witness a gunman murder fourteen young women.
The film was released on February 6, 2009, in Quebec and on March 20, 2009, in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. Its release has sparked controversy in Quebec and across Canada for its depiction of real life events involving the murder of unarmed students.
The film was screened at the Directors' Fortnight on May 17, 2009.
During a class a young man enters a classroom with a rifle. He orders the men to leave and the women to stay. They comply after he shoots into the ceiling to show that he is serious. He tells the women that he hates feminists. Although the women deny being feminists; he shoots at them killing some and wounding others. He then moves through corridors, the cafeteria, and another classroom, specifically targeting women. Once finished, he shoots himself with his own weapon.
The film jumps back and forth in time several times. It shows male student Jean-François who was ordered to leave the classroom. He does not just flee but he returns to try to stop the killer and/or help the victims. Valérie and Stéphanie, two surviving women, play dead thinking the killer returned, though Stephanie later dies of her injuries. Some time after the massacre Jean-François, feeling guilty for complying with the order to leave the classroom and abandoning the women, commits suicide.
The rest of the cast listed alphabetically:
- Marie-Évelyne Baribeau as Student
- Evelyne Brochu as Stéphanie
- Mireille Brullemans as Admission Office's secretary
- Pierre-Yves Cardinal as Éric
- Larissa Corriveau as Killer's neighbour
- Sophie Desmarais as Female Student (3rd floor corridor)
- Jonathan Dubsky as Frightened Student
- Marina Eva as Student at the party
- Emmanuelle Girard as Student behind speakers
- Nathalie Girard as Injured student
- Natalie Hamel-Roy as Jean-François' mother (voice)
- Adam Kosh as Killer's roommate
- Manon Lapointe as Killer's mother
- Pierre-Xavier Martel as Security Agent
- Johanne-Marie Tremblay as Jean-François' mother
- Anne Trudel as Student behind speakers
There were two versions of the film produced, one in English and one in French. The director Denis Villeneuve hoped the film would enter into the English-Canadian market, as well as the American one. Villeneuve shot the film in black and white, so as to avoid the presence of blood on screen.
The name of the perpetrator is never mentioned in the film. The end credits list Maxim Gaudette's character as "The killer".
Later in her career, Valérie (Karine Vanasse) wears an Iron Ring, the professional ring of Canadian engineers.
The film has received mostly positive reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 85% of professional critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7/10.
Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film three and a half stars out of four, stating "Polytechnique makes no judgments, offers no panaceas. It shows the violence, faithfully recreating the historical record, but it doesn't wallow in it. Pierre Gill's brilliant monochrome lensing minimizes the effect of the blood. [...] It stands as a work of art, summoning unspoken thoughts the way Picasso's war abstraction Guernica does in a scene of contemplation with Jean-François."
Denis Seguin of ScreenDaily.com gave the film a favourable review, writing "Like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, Polytechnique is a formalist interpretation of an atrocity, with a cool perspective on the events and much for audiences to read between the frames as the film moves back and forth through time."
Katherine Monk of Canwest News Services gave the film four stars out of five; "The paradox may sound grotesque, but it must be stated loud and clear: Denis Villeneuve and the cast of Polytechnique have transformed the tragedy of the Montreal Massacre into a work of profound beauty."
In April 2010, the film won nine Genie Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Villeneuve, Best Actress for Vanasse, Best Supporting Actor for Gaudette, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Overall Sound and Sound Editing; Prix Jutra – Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Gaudette), Cinematography, Editing and Sound.
The film grossed $214,419 in Quebec cinemas during its opening weekend, ranking 13th at the Canadian box office, even with limited release. As of May 28, 2009, the film has grossed $1.66 million, making it one of the highest-grossing Canadian films of the year.
Polytechnique was released on August 25, 2009 in two versions; a special two-disc edition with special features and a single disc edition with just the feature film. Both feature the English and French versions of the film. A Blu-ray format was also released.
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