Interviews & Profiles

A Canuck in Hollywood: The Films of Denis Villeneuve

Polytechnique (2009)

Villeneuve cut his teeth as writer and director of French language features August 32nd on Earth (1998) and Maelström (2000), both of which received award recognition, before seeing out the following decade with a stark, monochrome depiction of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.

Short and to the point, the hellish rampage of Marc Lépine (who goes unnamed in the film) against female students filters through to us from the tragic viewpoints of himself and two witnesses. Watching Villeneuve apply his eye for uncomfortable suspense to such a horrific real life event is a sobering and uniquely powerful experience. Inverting the tone to achieve such a response has always been one of Villeneuve’s specialities, and it is emphasised here by frequent switches between startlingly creative handheld sequences and some beautiful, yet haunting stationary shots.

Infused with sporadic, ultimately fleeting engagements with the victims, such an approach makes the chaotic event and its bleak, desolate consequences all the more impactful.

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