January 18, 2021
A young man searches for the truth after being told he is the reincarnation of a Bosnian soldier killed on the day he was born
Heroes Dont Die review – reincarnation mystery is on life support
Heroes Don’t Die is the second recent film – after Quentin Dupieux’s absurdist Deerskin, also due in the UK in 2021 – in which French high-flyer Adèle Haenel gets behind a camera to soothe a wounded male ego. Here she plays film-maker Alice, who decides to humour her friend Joachim (Jonathan Couzinié) who, after being collared in a Paris street by an angry Slav, comes to believe he is the reincarnation of Zoran, a Bosnian soldier who died on 21 August 1983 – the day he was born. The pair pack the digicam and head Balkans-ward to track down the truth.
Debut director Aude Léa Rapin, co-writing with Couzinié, reaches for Nouvelle Vague-like sprightliness with this meta-filmic setup. But it has the unfortunate effect of spotlighting Heroes Don’t Die’s self-regard and hesitancy over what form to take. If it’s satirising first-person documentaries, it doesn’t keep that subject in sharp focus. The character-study element, as Alice begins to doubt Joachim’s sincerity about his belief in reincarnation, feels expedient. It engages only sketchily with Bosnian history: it situates its story in Bratunac, the next town over from Srebenica. This tempting proximity to seriousness, when a war widow draws parallels between her and Joachim’s situations, leads Rapin towards borderline misjudged musings (“It’s good to tell yourself stories.”)
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