Polytechnique (film)

Not to be confused with Polytechnic (film).

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Produced by Don Carmody
Maxime Rémillard
Written by Jacques Davidts
Denis Villeneuve
Starring Maxim Gaudette
Sebastien Huberdeau
Karine Vanasse
Évelyne Brochu
Johanne-Marie Tremblay
Pierre-Yves Cardinal
Music by Benoit Charest
Cinematography Pierre Gill
Edited by Richard Comeau
Distributed by Alliance Films
Wild Bunch[1]
Release dates
  • February 6, 2009 (2009-02-06)
Running time
77 minutes
Country Canada
Language French
Budget $6 million
Box office $1,663,867

Polytechnique is a 2009 Canadian film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Villeneuve and Jacques Davidts. Set in Montreal, Quebec and based on the École Polytechnique massacre (also known as the "Montreal Massacre"), the film documents the events of December 6, 1989, through the eyes of two students who witness a gunman murder fourteen young women.

The film was released on February 6, 2009, in Quebec and on March 20, 2009, in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.[2][3] Its release has sparked controversy in Quebec and across Canada for its depiction of real life events involving the murder of unarmed students.[4][5]

The film was screened at the Directors' Fortnight on May 17, 2009.[6][7]


During a class a young man enters a classroom with a rifle. He orders the men to leave and the women to stay. They comply after he shoots into the ceiling to show that he is serious. He tells the women that he hates feminists. Although the women deny being feminists; he shoots at them killing some and wounding others. He then moves through corridors, the cafeteria, and another classroom, specifically targeting women. Once finished, he shoots himself with his own weapon.

The film jumps back and forth in time several times. It shows male student Jean-François who was ordered to leave the classroom. He does not just flee but he returns to try to stop the killer and/or help the victims. Valérie and Stéphanie, two surviving women, play dead thinking the killer returned, though Stephanie later dies of her injuries. Some time after the massacre Jean-François, feeling guilty for complying with the order to leave the classroom and abandoning the women, commits suicide.


The rest of the cast listed alphabetically:


The trailer was released in late November 2008, in both French and English versions. An edited version of Moby's song "Everloving" (from his Play album) is featured extensively in the trailer.


The film was shot at Cégep de Maisonneuve and Collège Ahuntsic as well as Griffintown and Westmount.[8]

There were two versions of the film produced, one in English and one in French. The director Denis Villeneuve hoped the film would enter into the English-Canadian market, as well as the American one.[8] Villeneuve shot the film in black and white, so as to avoid the presence of blood on screen.[8]

The name of the perpetrator is never mentioned in the film. The end credits list Maxim Gaudette's character as "The killer".


Later in her career, Valérie (Karine Vanasse) wears an Iron Ring, the professional ring of Canadian engineers.


The film has received mostly positive reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 85% of professional critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7/10.[9]

Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film three and a half stars out of four, stating "Polytechnique makes no judgments, offers no panaceas. It shows the violence, faithfully recreating the historical record, but it doesn't wallow in it. Pierre Gill's brilliant monochrome lensing minimizes the effect of the blood. [...] It stands as a work of art, summoning unspoken thoughts the way Picasso's war abstraction Guernica does in a scene of contemplation with Jean-François."[10]

Denis Seguin of ScreenDaily.com gave the film a favourable review, writing "Like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, Polytechnique is a formalist interpretation of an atrocity, with a cool perspective on the events and much for audiences to read between the frames as the film moves back and forth through time."[11]

Katherine Monk of Canwest News Services gave the film four stars out of five; "The paradox may sound grotesque, but it must be stated loud and clear: Denis Villeneuve and the cast of Polytechnique have transformed the tragedy of the Montreal Massacre into a work of profound beauty."[12]

In January 2010, it was named the Best Canadian Film of 2009 by the Toronto Film Critics Association. Brian D. Johnson, TFCA president called it a "film of astonishing courage."[13]

In April 2010, the film won nine Genie Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Villeneuve, Best Actress for Vanasse, Best Supporting Actor for Gaudette, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Overall Sound and Sound Editing; Prix Jutra – Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Gaudette), Cinematography, Editing and Sound.

Box office

The film grossed $214,419 in Quebec cinemas during its opening weekend, ranking 13th at the Canadian box office, even with limited release.[14] As of May 28, 2009, the film has grossed $1.66 million,[15] making it one of the highest-grossing Canadian films of the year.

DVD release

Polytechnique was released on August 25, 2009 in two versions; a special two-disc edition with special features and a single disc edition with just the feature film. Both feature the English and French versions of the film. A Blu-ray format was also released.[16]

See also


  1. "Polytechnique". Wild Bunch. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
  2. "Accueil - Remstar Films". Remstarcorp.com. Retrieved 2012-12-07.
  3. "V". Tqs.ca. Retrieved 2012-12-07.
  4. Kelley, Brendan (2009-01-30). "Polytechnique: open to debate". Montreal Gazette. Canwest. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  5. Kelley, Brendan (2009-02-02). "Some comments on the upcoming Polytechnique film.....". Montreal Gazette. Canwest. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  6. "Cinéma - Toutes les actualités" (in French). 7jours.canoe.ca. Retrieved 2012-12-07.
  7. Martin, Peter (May 18, 2009). "Cannes in 60 Seconds: Sunday, May 17, 2009". Cinematical.com. Retrieved 2012-12-07.
  8. 1 2 3 http://moncinema.cyberpresse.ca/nouvelles-et-critiques/nouvelles/nouvelle-cinema/3684-iPolytechniquei--film-bilingue.html
  9. Polytechnique - Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved on June 2, 2012.
  10. Howell, Peter (March 20, 2009). "Polytechnique: Silent witness". The Star. Toronto. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  11. "Polytechnique | Review | Screen". Screendaily.com. April 9, 2009. Retrieved 2012-12-07.
  12. "Toronto critics name 'Polytechnique' best film of '09". CTV Montreal News. January 13, 2010. Retrieved 2012-12-07.
  13. "Box Office". Tribute.ca. 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2012-12-07.
  14. Archived May 27, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. "Polytechnique". Amazon.ca. Retrieved 2012-12-07.
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