Les Hommes du feu
Pierre Jolivet’s bold drama is at times documentary-like in its unique insight into one of France’s “caserne de pompiers”. Aptly entitled Les hommes du feu, which translates as “Men of Fire”, the director’s intimate fly-on-the-wall technique captures the male-centric world of the fire brigade, where the overwhelming bravado of the locker makes the film appear more like a wildlife documentary about primal hunters than gallant individuals who risk their lives daily. The hierarchy of predators is, however, suddenly shifted by the arrival of Bénédicte Meursault, a female firefighter who has been transferred to the brigade in the South of France. Her sudden appearance allows Jolivet to explore not only the difficulty of being a in this job, but also that of navigating such a patriarchal profession as a woman.
Bénédicte contends with not only sexism from co-workers, but also the soaring emotional turmoil that firefighters experience each day; lives are lost, mistakes are made and relationships are broken in this truly testing career. Her first mission that she leads results in a missed casualty at a serious traffic road collision, who is eventually found later on the brink of death and in a coma. With the complete blame and cumbersome guilt on her shoulders, Bénédicte’s initial reaction is to resign but her temperate and encouraging boss, Philippe, stops her, insisting on her potential in this challenging field.
Jolivet’s action-packed narrative leaves little room for character development but does reflect upon the sheer scope of roles firefighters in France have to embody. Not only do they tackle blazing fires but they are the first call for medical emergencies too, showing the extent of their adaptability and calibre. Perhaps most eye-opening is the birthing scene in the back of the fire engine where one of the virile firefighters drops his guard to deliver a set of twins. The mother-to-be is surrounded by red-blooded and hardened men who experience first-hand the resilience, pain and strength of motherhood and women. It is a scene that blurs the boundary between heroic firefighters and new mothers, allowing Jolivet to demonstrate the place of women alongside men in not only a professional context but also on their shared physical vigour and emotional courage.
Les hommes du feu is released nationwide on the 8th December 2017.
Watch the trailer for Les hommes du feu here: