Friday, August 6, 2010

monochromatic poetry of death

Polytechnique is a delicately restrained lyrical artwork addressing the nonsensical horror of the historical 1989 Montreal Massacre. It is nothing short of a visual virtuoso of powerful drawn-out imagery in slurries of soft black & white which gently lap on the edge of consciousness, blurring illogical brutality into a shadowy poetic containment simultaneously addressing life and death. And the fine line of perception which divides them. Both the before and aftershocks.
The combination of Director of Photography Pierre Gill and Director Denis Villeneuve is potent, resulting in a tangibly unreal dreamlike state, stark yet lucidly streaming in theta wavelike fashion. The cinematography is exceptional not just in composition and movement but in the inherent subtlety which does not detract from the surreality and first person RPG sense of realtime connection. A multi-faceted viewfinder into the quiet chaotic space. Serial killer meets gamer POV sans sensationalism.
Eerie but not, as some detractors have argued, irresponsible. A potential mass murderer will already self-glamorise the act played out in the instant play/rewind of the mind, it's unlikely - just like marijuana - to lead onto the harder drug. The psychopath comes first, not the cartoons on TV. Or politically current in Australia, the child pornography without an internet filter.
The film is factual but centres on fictionalized characters with detailed attribution to actual events within the massacre. What happened that fateful day when a jaundiced twenty five year old, Marc Lepine entered the Ecole Polytechnique armed with a legally obtained semi-automatic rifle, a hunting knife, several rounds of ammunition and a suicide note, carefully written prior, inside his jacket. All retrospective the what-ifs.
He went on to hunt down and slaughter feminists ie. women, like wild animals within his perceived sacred manly domain which was Engineering School. During his psychotic rampage which he began by systematically separating the "girls from the boys" in a classroom he then executed the nine women after delivering a short anti-feminist tirade. Three actually survived after playing dead.
His insane rampage continued throughout the school targeting women. In twenty minutes he famously killed fourteen women and injured ten before turning the gun on himself. He also shot men but it was clear throughout that these were unfortunate incidentals and not the object of his unfathomable obsession. Countless students suffered extreme post-traumatic stress syndrome and subsequently had emotional distress peppered with a large number of suicides. over the years which followed. His hate crime fallout, immense.
The Montreal Massacre went on to become an incredible totem of violence against women. A terrible symbol of misogyny which served as an illustration of immobilisation and gender paralysis. The anniversary [December 6] is now known as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. For years after the event police would not release the full details of the suicide note for fear of creation of anti-feminist backlash. The incident resulted in tighter gun controls in Canada.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the event which is poignantly painted by the film is the reflective portrayal of the accessibility of the moment. It could be anytime anywhere. The killer lurks within us all. With the increased popularisation of 1st person shooter games there's an acknowledgement of power outside of the permitted constructs of civilisation. We're bursting at the seams to marry our inner monster caged by socratic logic to fit the idealised societal code. Which strangely echoes Marc Lepine's own words from his hate literature: "For why exist just to please the government?" Babies need not be thrown out with the bath water.
In understanding any of this, control ultimately cannot be exacted by outside legislative forces but must come from within. As respectively illustrated in the film the power to believe and act is born for all of us there. It must overcome fear [we are not Orwellian Big Brother's children quite yet]. Otherwise life has no meaning, the motions just that. Which is liberating indeed. 
Australian Premiere TONIGHT [Friday August 06] at Possible Worlds Canadian Film Festival.

Dendy Opera Quays
9/2 East Circular Quay
Sydney, Australia
20:30 - 22:30

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