It’s an unwritten rule of the film industry that for your film to do well at festivals, it must deal with the most miserable subject matter possible – rape, violence, child abuse, poverty etc all generally being well received. Polisse, winner of the Cannes 2011 Jury Prize, is no exception.
Dealing with the grim, depressing working life and turbulent personal lives of the police of a Child Protection Unit in Paris, Polisse is like a really good episode of the Bill, where the people are sexier, the banter is ruder and funnier (although it tends to go on a bit long), and the crimes more terrible.
Shot in a documentary style, and based (tragically) on real-life cases, the film strives for and achieves great realism, although a lack of any discernible plot gives it a loose and unfocussed structure – however, the film manages to hold the interest despite its slightly unnecessary length and meandering storylines.
The camaraderie between the police officers is raucous and sometimes overacted, and the arguments and love affairs heated. Maïwenn does a great job of presenting the volatile and intense atmosphere and the blurring of boundaries created in an environment where people share daily experiences of grief and horror.
The inclusion of the character of a photographer who comes to document the work of the squad feels unnecessary, and the detour into her personal life detracts from the action of the film – the role is played by Maïwenn herself, and is obviously a proxy for the filmmaker, as she spent time with a CPU squad researching for the film. It seems she is exploring the feelings of intrusion and hostility, as well as warmth and intimacy, that she experienced in doing so, but this is frankly self-indulgent.
Polisse, despite its flaws, is moving, exciting and feels real. It’s worth a watch, but not to cheer yourself up.
- Julia Hilliard