I'm really glad that a Canadian movie is getting a little love South of the border!
While Bruce McDonald might not be particularly well known outside of Canada, he's achieved iconic status within Canada. I had the honour of working on his film "Hard Core Logo 2" and it was a great experience. I’d encourage anyone who liked Pontypool to check out some of his other movies. His early movies in particular are undisputed classics of Canadian cinema. I’d recommend his “rock and roll road trilogy” - Roadkill (1989), Highway 61 (1991) and Hard Core Logo (1996) – as well as his First Nations comedy Dance Me Outside (1994) (written by WP Kinsella, who’s “Shoeless Joe” was adapted into “Field of Dreams”).
I can offer a few insights into Pontypool...
When asked about the movie, McDonald has often said that the movie is intentionally clear enough to provide a narrative that can be followed, but also ambiguous enough to invite interpretation. When asked what any particular scene is about, his most common answer is “what did you think it was about?”. Many of the questions that you raised in the podcast don't have definitive answers, they're meant to provoke thought, speculation and discussion. That's the intended 'virus' of this film, to get people talking about a film about the impact of words.
A bit of the subtext...
It was intended to be a satirical commentary on the (typically) right-wing political radio culture in America, asking us to question the consequences of the firestorms they manufacture on a daily basis. With the rise of Donald Trump's candidacy, could anything be more relevant today?
The fact that the virus was spread only through the English language allowed for a bit of Canadian political commentary. In the province of Quebec, there are very strict language laws that are overseen by a government agency called the (very Orwellian sounding!) “L’Office Québécois de la langue Française” (roughly “The Quebec Bureau of the French Language”) and enforced by actual language police. The fact that this movie presented the English language as a virus that can be contained by French police (military?) is a cheeky nod to the language politics in Quebec – and the ultimate futility of trying to contain a the spread of a language.
The ending scene was intentionally open ended. A straight interpretation implies that the military bombed the radio station…in French, as the army is telling Mazzy to end his broadcast there’s a count down from 10. Mazzy and Sydney kiss as the screen goes black when the countdown reaches 0. However, the post credit sequence might imply that they survived the bombing, or that perhaps it wasn’t a bomb. Whether that scene is meant to be real or imagined, its meta-purpose is to cleanse the viewing audience from potentially being infected by the virus from watching the film.
The book from which this movie was adapted (“Pontypool Changes Everything”) is a collection of stories, asides and glimpses about this event. The story shown in the movie is an extrapolation of one of the stories from the book. The intention was to make a Pontypool trilogy with each movie showing the event from a different perspective. A script for the first sequel was drafted, but has been in development hell due to “shady investors, lawsuits and counter lawsuits”. In 2013 a teaser poster was released for the sequel (“Pontypool Changes”) but nothing has come from it since. My understanding is that it’s about a woman and her young son, on a farm listening to Mazzy’s broadcast while attempting to escape Pontypool.
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