Today: February 25, 2024
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Polisse

While some might connect Polisse to the spreading European trend in dark crime thrillers, Maïwenn’s film is an entirely different beast to the likes of The Killing and Baran Bo Odar’s The Silence.

While some might connect Polisse to the spreading European trend
in dark crime thrillers,
Maïwenn’s
film is an entirely different beast to the likes of
The Killing and
Baran Bo Odar’s The Silence. It’s still dark and it’s still
unsettling but what makes Polisse stand out is just how uncomfortably genuine
it feels. Shot with an almost documentary-style approach, its subject matter is
made all the more disturbing by the film’s unwavering realism.

Polisse
offers a window into the grim world of a Child Protection Unit of the Paris
police force, following their day-to-day lives as they handle cases of child
abuse, abduction and underage sexuality. Aside from the style of filming, it’s
authenticity lies in the level of research carried out by director Maïwenn. To
prepare for the film – which she also co-wrote and acts in – Maïwenn shadowed a
number of CPUs in order to get an insight into how they operate. As a result,
the characters feel well developed and the dialogue is raw and visceral.

“All men
are the scum of the earth,” says straight-faced team member Iris (Marina Foïs), revealing how her view of the opposite sex has been
distorted by the crimes she encounters every day. Elsewhere, police officer
Fred (played by a superbly choleric Joeystarr)
slumps blankly on the sofa while his family sit eating dinner. “Disconnect”,
his wife tells him, but it’s clear that he can’t. In this way, Polisse gives a
very human portrayal of its characters, following them home in the same way
that their work follows them and showing the extent to which the job affects
their personal lives and relationships.

Despite its
bleak focus though, the film still manages to balance its dark subject matter
with some lighter moments. In one sequence, the team celebrates the recovery of
a rescued baby in a bar, where laughing and drinking eventually give way to
wild dancing; there is also the amusing interrogation of a ridiculously
matter-of-fact teenage girl, as well as frequent bursts of black humour (the desperate
kind of humour that people turn to when confronted by daily misery and horror).

While these
moments provide important relief, they also serve another function – like the
upbeat montage of the opening credits, they create a contrast with the surrounding
material, making certain scenes even more hard-hitting. These moments – a
homeless mother being separated from her child or the questioning of a man
suspected of abusing his daughter – are tinged with the characteristic realism
of the film and are subsequently very hard to watch.

While some
might struggle with the subject matter, Polisse paints an undeniably honest
picture of an aspect of society that regularly goes ignored – the result is a
bleak and powerful piece of filmmaking.

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