To understand is not to understand

Pontypool is one of those films that will leave you confused and devastated at yourself for not being able to understand the main point of the story. Although I found it hard to understand, Bruce McDonald’s very unique take on the zombie film genre made the film more interesting and entertaining.

The film was set in Ontario, Canada, where a deadly virus was rumored to be spreading through the English language. This rumor was confirmed by a radio station, where most of the story took place. The main character in the story, Grant Mazzy, was a radio host who had bad work ethics that led him to getting rejected by big-time shows, thus leading him to work in an early morning show in CLSY Radio in Pontypool. It started with a pre-recorded tape of Grant playing on the radio about a missing cat. Grant arrives in the station and started to report ordinary news that seemed to not interest him at all. What made everything strange is that incidences of riot and chaos were reported to the station by their traffic reporter and they also received calls from listeners about it. For a boring old town, everything just seemed to change dramatically for Grant and his producer, Sydney Briar.

Weird thing about this film is that the zombie virus was spreading through language, and one of its symptoms were endless and repetitive phrases blurted out by the infected. Once infected, the person attacks just like any other zombie. The root of the problem I seem to not understand. Some foreign authority and a foreign doctor just vehemently tells us that the infection is caused by the English language. But why? What’s even more perplexing is the scene at the end of the credits. I just left the room feeling brain-damaged.

At first, I thought that the film was trying to make a point about how people nowadays use the English language to prove shallow and unimportant things that it led them to being cursed to say non-sense for the rest of their lives. This makes sense because it’s the French language that seems to be more powerful in the movie for not being vulnerable to language virus. Way before the modern era, language was a vessel for art. It was used to express abstract emotions by philosophers, politicians, poets, and other artists. Now that modernity has heightened our use of material things, we resort to using our language as a means of simple communication and not as an expression of deep thoughts and emotions. Artistry now is always associated with the European culture, like French. Since the English language is a universal language, this tendency to use the language to speak and not to express has led the people to the infection. This may be true but I have this strong feeling that it’s not. The movie is just too different and ambiguous, that I think that is the point of the movie. If the transmission of the virus was caused by understanding the language, then one must not understand to avoid infection. The audience, in this case, is actually part of the story. For me, the whole point of everything is for us not to understand in order to live, which is quite funny but enlightening at the same time. The last spiel of Grant Mazzy prevented the prolonging of the virus as he says:”Well, what the fuck happened today folks? Someone took a buzzsaw to your middle, and they pulled out a wheeling devil, and they spilled it right across your anthill. But you know what folks? We were never making sense. We were never making sense.”

Now that I understand, I don’t know. Know. Know. Know. Know. Uh-oh.

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