(Release Info London schedule; January 15th, 2020, Curzon Home Cinema)
"Heroes Don't Die"
After being violently called out by a stranger, Joachim (Jonathan Caizinié) believes he's the reincarnation of a Serbian soldier who died on the very day he was born. He embarks with his friend Alice (Adèle Haenel) and a small film crew on a journey to Bosnia to track back details of his former life. In a country haunted by war, Alice will manage to make him reach immortality.
The film practically starts with 'The Srebenican' burial ceremony. During the film, we don’t know where we’re going, we're even saying to ourselves that this quest for the ghost is going to fail. And you follow the belief in reincarnation through to it's conclusion, with a superb final sequence. If this story goes through to the end, it's because it's led, orchestrated in a way, by a gesture of love, of friendship. The character of Alice gives this end to Joachim. Friendship is the engine of this history. There's a really comical angle with 'The Pieds Nickelés' (French comic) or 'Thomson And Thompson' aspect of the characters, who always get off on the wrong foot with the locals. When the French characters enter a bar or car scrapyard, we could believe that it's a live documentary shot. But is the fact that those situations are scripted, and 'The Bosnians' are played by actors.
This film attends the university of life as it's. In the early 2000s, 'East Bosnia' and that’s where the reincarnation story comes from. We've very striking memories of 'The Bosnian War'. We followed it on the news and we didn’t really understand it properly, but in some way it functioned as a sort of accompaniment to our childhood. We come to Sarajevo looking for what met us behind that door that day. The desire for culture, to watch films, to have access to passionate and engaging discussions. It’s clear that "Heroes Don't Die" comes from a 'Bosnia-Serbia' experience among other things. Bosnia is not exactly the other end of the world! It's really intense work on mourning and death. The idea of this proximity to death is even more evident in a country like Bosnia where the errant ghosts of the recent war float around, as if there had just never been an end to the end of the war. All that gives a film where the character travels to confront his own death without knowing much about where he's laying his feet. Do we really believe in reincarnation or is it just a good fictional engine? A bit of both. We want to believe in it, we prefer imagining there's something at the end, for us and for others. It’s a thought that reconciles nicely with the idea of life. The film starts from a science-fiction basis then continue with the fiction, sort of without the science!
Srebrenica embodies all the ugliness of that war, how neighbours were able to eliminate each other with a violence that's inexplicable today. The film is a reminder that at the heart of Europe, two hours on a plane from Paris, is a country of which the capital city is muslim. Culturally, Sarajevo is European, very close to us, but it’s Turkish also, it follows the rhythms of the calls to prayer. It's a city where 'The Austro-Hungarian' empire meets 'The Ottoman Empire'. It's a country that embodies our collective European failure, still divided, still ready to implode, and now burdened with the other latent tensions with the route of refugees and a Europe preoccupied with identity. Usually, fantastical films involve very careful shots, with special effects and very careful lighting. Here, the aesthetic is more rough, raw. The film adopts those documentary methods in terms of lightness and certain rules. Lightness in the sense of a very small team which is nimble, without complex constraints. And the rules in the sense that it has to be believable that this film is capturing unforeseen situations. It's as though the film obliged us to reject direction in order to search a point of view.