Thursday, March 19, 2009

Still Recovering From "Polytechnique"

I am struggling to finish this post. I am not going to be able to speak about this film without any bias, but to be honest, I don't know who could. I heard someone call the events of December 6th, 1989 "Canada's Columbine." But really, Columbine is the United State's "Montreal Massacre".

How do I speak clearly and concisely about a portrayal of events that have, in part, led me to where I am now, working for an organization of men working to end men's violence against women, an issue I have been deeply and directly involved in for my entire professional career, lasting almost a decade!? Not that I am trying to garner any sympathy, but watching someone else's dramatized depiction of events I've had to think about, personally and professionally, nearly every day left me feeling extremely trepidatious during the lead up to the viewing.

As a film, it was a stunningly gorgeous portrayal of metropolitan Canada stuck in the grip of winter. The black and white treatment reflected both the starkness and the beauty of falling/fallen snow and the architecture of the school itself.

The editing and pacing of the film was a bit messy, jumping time-lines seemingly at random, an effect used brilliantly in Gus Van Sant's 'Elephant', showing how lives are irreversibly intertwined, but in Polytechnique it, unfortunately, only caused confusion and dislocation, exemplified excellently, perhaps on purpose, in an outdoor scene that was upside down and askew, leading to a bit of vertigo. Although that could have been because it took me almost the entire film to recover from the shock of the first scene.

The fact that the film was shot in black and white divorced it from any specific time, or era. The date was given, but it could have easily been the 1970's, and for most of the film, I could not shake the feeling that this was happening much further in the past than 20 years ago.

I can respect, grudgingly, people who feel that the film did not give enough context to the events of the film, but I don't understand how you could walk away without being deeply affected and WITHOUT an understanding of what the film was trying to say.


Todd Minerson speaks to the packed audience before the screening. Photo taken from waaaaaay in the back.

From the opening (and heart attack inducing) scene to the end when Karine Vanasse's character Valerie fears for her job because she has become pregnant, to the lone male 'hero' doing his best to save whomever he can, and killing himself because he feels he failed, the fact that this is a movie about women and women's issues, dealing with violence, social norms, ideas of chivalry and maiden's in distress is obtusely clear.

This is a movie that should be seen by as many Canadians as possible. Not only because it is a dramatic retelling of a pivotal moment in Canadian history, bringing to the national and international forefront issues of violence, male entitlement, and gun control, to name a few, but also as a work of Canadian art. The choice to film this in both English and French, so as not to distract anyone with clumsy overdubs or subtitles, is something that should be taken into consideration (budgets not withstanding) by every Canadian production.

Although it was a hard movie to watch, at times bringing tears to my eyes and audible gasps from those seated around me, I am glad that I got the opportunity to do so as it has reassured me that the work I do as part of White Ribbon Campaign is extremely important.

Unfortunately so.

No comments: