Dark Sunday

Today marks two tragic anniversaries in Canada: the collision of a French munitions ship with a Norwegian vessel in 1917 that essentially flattened a whole swathe of the city of Halifax, killed a thousand, and maimed nine thousand more; and the tenth anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, where nutbar Marc Lepine set out to kill women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique because he blamed women for all of his woes.

Amazingly, there has yet to be a solid dramatization of the Halifax disaster, perhaps because it’s a simple story: a ship blew up, people died, more suffered thereafter, more misery and devastation. Not exactly a story with a dramatic arc, and while a Canadian Heritage vignette tried to capture the horror and heroism of a telegraph operator during the event, the vignette was awfully melodramatic, and was hardly a moving or engrossing tribute. There is, however, an NFB documentary (Just One Big Mess) that covers the explosion, which you can view online for free HERE.

The Ecole Polytechnique massacre, though, was given a superb retelling this year by director Denis Villeneuve in the drama Polytechnique, which is widely available on DVD. Perhaps not for the faint of heart, it’s nevertheless a potent assault on the senses, and really leaves one filled with outrage towards Lepine. Although ostensibly about one event and a dramatization that fuses stories from several witnesses and survivors, it’s also a potent statement about the strong-willed mindset of men who feel women are useless, stupid, and evil – and as such, it’s also a sampling of the mentality that motivates men to abuse and kill women due to cultural, religious, or boneheaded illogic.

Even if you’re wary of the dour subject matter, Polytechnique’s portrait of mindless male rage is terrifying, provocative, and edifying, and it’s worth checking out on DVD in place of the usual banal romantic comedy, moronic action flick, or torture porn. It may not be cheery Christmas material, but if the holidays are supposed to promote thoughts of those less fortunate, it should also include familiarizing oneself with a social evil.



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