I have to admit that for the first fifteen minutes of La Cicatrice (The Scar), I was completely lost. The film jumps back and forth in time, telling the back stories of Paul (Patrick Goyette) and Richard (Marc Béland), two players in an amateur hockey league. We arrive back in the present, and see the hockey game from Richard’s perspective, which is punctuated by a shocking, violent act.
As the connection between Richard and Paul comes into focus, we are propelled into what, on the surface, is a suspense-riddled tale of a man taking revenge on his childhood tormentor. But what’s most successful about this film is what lies beneath that surface.
Director Jimmy Larouche explores Richard’s suffering with such precision and poetry that we can almost feel the weight of the melancholy that Richard has carried for most of his life. And Béland’s emotionally complex performance is breathtaking.
One thing that I really liked about the film is that Larouche chose to introduce Paul, the bully, first, showing the own abuse he endured at home. It gave the audience the opportunity to empathize with the antagonist, which is a rare gift. When asked about this choice, Larouche said “Really, there are no clear good guys and bad guys, except maybe in westerns and sci-fi films. The characters are just human.”
The non-linear storytelling, heavy use of surrealism and significant reliance on sounds in lieu of dialogue (the sound design is phenomenal) could classify The Scar as an ‘arty’ film. Normally, I’m not a fan of ‘arty’ for the sake of being ‘arty’, but the human element to the film renders it accessible.
When asked about these devices in a Q&A after the screening, Larouche said, “Watching a film is not only about understanding, it’s about feeling. Richard’s suffering is internal, so I had to show the emotion, the fear, the pressure through image and sound.”
The Scar is one of those films that, just after watching, you think, “Okay, that was a good story. It was well crafted and had a strong message.” Then a day goes by, and the deeper themes and plot nuances and character arcs really start to resonate and you think, “Holy Shit! I think I may need to watch that a few more times to really wrap my brain around it.” That, to me, is the signature of an excellent film.