Format: 35mm Colour/Black & White
Runtime: 107 min
Les Productions Prisma Inc.,
Les Ordres Inc.
has been rated by critics as one of the best Canadian films ever made. It subtly blends fiction and documentary realism in a chilling portrait of what can happen to a liberal democracy when the state imposes its power.
In October 1970, when FLQ terrorists kidnapped a British diplomat and threatened to (and later did) murder a Quebec cabinet minister, Prime Minister Trudeau sanctioned the War Measures Act and sent the Canadian army into Montreal. Close to 500 ordinary citizens who had no connection to the terrorists were summarily arrested and held without charge.
Les ordres is the story of five people who were arrested and imprisoned: Clermont Boudreau (Lapointe), a factory worker, former union representative and occasional taxi driver; his wife Marie (Loiselle); Claudette Dusseault (Forestier), a social worker; Richard Lavoie (Gauthier), an unemployed young man who cares for his two children while his wife (Clément) works as a waitress; and Dr. Jean�€'Marie Beauchemin (Provost), a physician who runs a clinic in a poor neighbourhood and has campaigned as a left-wing political candidate.
The prisoners are held incommunicado, but assume they will be quickly released. They soon realize the director of the prison (Bélanger) has orders to detain them indefinitely. Prison life is a humiliating experience: the men are in solitary confinement and subjected to harassment by the guards. Lavoie is told he is to be shot and goes through a fake execution staged by three guards. Clermont Boudreau, whose father has just died, is first refused permission to see his body, and then taken to see it in the dead of night.
After six days, Marie Boudreau is told she was arrested by mistake and released. Gradually the others are released, the last after more than three weeks — without explanation or apology.
The film is Brault’s second fictional feature, and his cool, uninflected approach enables him to focus in human terms on the effects of the abrogation of rights and not on the political context.
Brault shared the prize for best director at the Cannes Film Festival in 1975, and won the Quebec Critics Association prize for best film, and three Canadian Film Awards, for best feature, direction and script.