Hallowe’en Special: Pontypool
Through lazy reliance on artificial communication, from Hallmark greetings to txt msgs, the population of Pontypool, Ontario has become vulnerable to a new virus. DJ Grant Mazzy tries to nudge the sleepy people awake with coarse language, but the listeners are already corrupting themselves in a bloodier manner via viral Valentine babytalk.
Pontypool’s shuffling infected are “Conversationalists” who prefer tongues to brains. Instead of the mall, they are drawn to the GP practice and to the church, those places where one seeks verbal placebo in times of 21st century stress and hypochondria. The Conversationalists can only echo and repeat, ultimately fixating on infected words. As the danger lies in the act of comprehension, repetition is one way of sterilising the infection. Mazzy quotes Roland Barthes, reminding us that words really can be dangerous. Through repetition and mass hysteria, rumour and myth can become fact.
It’s not only the act of putting caption to image – in Newport, less than ten miles from our own Pontypool in South Wales, vandals painted “paedo” on the house of a paediatrician. A simple phonetic twist can cause just as much trouble as a paparazzi scandal.
“Pontypool” is a claustrophobic, clever, funny film that feels unfinished and will leave you with questions – could notepads and Franglais really be loopholes? But the Canadian ham acting of Stephen McHattie, the concept of language as bioterrorism, and the simple thrill of a new monster should all appeal, and provoke some healthy pub table debate – followed by Conversationalist babble.
Pontypool screened at CFF2009
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- Piccadilly by Rosy Hunt (Editor-in-Chief)
- Diary of a Country Priest by Rosy Hunt (Editor-in-Chief)