POLYTECHNIQUE is Canadian film director, Denis Villieneuve’s, fictional retelling of the Montreal Polytechnicque masssacre in the late 1980s. A disaffected student, angry at feminists studying mechanical engineering who apparently wanted the best of both words, entered a classroom, split the girls from the boys and shot the girls, before walking through the rest of the university, shooting at random, before committing suicide. In dealing with this material, Villeneuve chooses to take a formal approach, establishing the motives of the killer and its impact on the students by recreating the events of that day rather than in essaying the journey to that place. Villeneuve takes accounts of the massacre and creates a killer and a composite male and female student. The male is shown being ushered out of the room before the girls, his friends are massacred, and then takes us with him for the rest of the day. The movie then cuts back to the classroom and shows us the shooting from the perspective of the female character and shows us the impact on her life.
The film is well-made and has moments of real impact, but I have a few problems with it. First, I think that Villeneuve makes a wrong choice in taking the killer at his word at being angered by feminists and following up this theme in the struggle of the female character to be taken seriously in the male-dominated world of mechanical engineering. This is, I think, pandering to the killer’s twisted view of the world. And after all, aren’t all these psychopaths just using whatever particular beef they have as a justification for a more basic need to cause hurt and gain attention? The other reason I think Villeneuve makes a mistake in focusing on the feminism theme is that it leads him into mawkish territory - particularly in the final, cliché ridden monologue of the female character.
POLYTECHNIQUE played Cannes 2009 and London 2009 and opened in Canada in February.