Les héros ne meurent jamais [Heroes Don’t Die] (2019)

Les héros ne meurent jamais
Director: Aude Léa Rapin
Writer: Jonathan Couzinié, Aude Léa Rapin
Cast: Adèle Haenel, Jonathan Couzinié, Antonia Buresi, Hasija Boric, Vesna Stilinovic, Damir Kustura, Slaven Vidak, Haris Devic, Midhat Slatina
Seen on: 31.3.2021

After Joachim (Jonathan Couzinié) has an apparently random encounter with somebody on the street who gives him the idea that he is the reincarnation of a Zoran who appears to not have been a good person, he convinces his friend Alice (Adèle Haenel) to go to Sarajevo with him and find out more about his past life. Alice, a filmmaker who shot a documentary about Srebrenica and its aftermath, decides to make a film out of Joachim’s search as well. Together with soundmaster Virginie (Antonia Buresi) and cameraman Paul (Paul Guilhaume) they leave to find out who Zoran/Joachim was.

Heroes Don’t Die is an interesting, metafictional film that takes its seemingly fantastic premise to say something about how to live in the face of mortality – be it your own personal mortality, or the mortality of people around you, be it a single death or the masses who died in the war. I found it very intriguing.

The film poster showing Alice (Adèle Haenel) with her arm around Joachim (Jonathan Couzinié), a van can be seen behind them.

The film has chosen an unusual format to tell its story. Making a (fake) documentary about a possible reincarnation certainly creates a film that isn’t too interested in answers – those would have been easier to give in outright fiction. So, don’t expect to get answers or even theories about life after death here.

Instead the film looks at life with death. How do you deal with having to die yourself? How do you deal with your entire family having died? How do you deal with knowing that people you love will die? How do you remember? How do you keep going? With those questions the film draws a direct line from Joachim’s attempts to find out about Zoran to the war in former Yugoslavia.

Alice (Adèle Haenel) and Joachim (Jonathan Couzinié) riding in the flatbed of a truck.

And the film doesn’t make things too easy. Joachim could have just been a self-involved Frenchman who has nothing whatsoever to do with the war and just thinks it’s somehow cool to maybe have been a war criminal, but definitely a soldier in a war. But with a revelation later in the film, we realize that things aren’t quite as simple. Neither is Alice’s relationship with Joachim (both, by the way, fantastically acted by Haenel and Couzinié).

Ultimately, Joachim’s quest serves to personalize the horrific events of the war and the impact that can still be felt. And the – apparently – distanced form of a (fake) documentary underscores the effects even further. It’s a really impressive film that makes one hope that Rapin makes many more.

Alice (Adèle Haenel) driving past a huge cemetery filled with white crosses.

Summarizing: absolutely worth seeing.

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