Heroes Don’t Die (Les Heros ne meurent jamais)
In the found-footage genre, there are classics like the Blair Witch Project, and the not-so-classic, Paranormal Activity (with how many sequels?), and now there is French director Aude Lea Rapin’s first feature Les héros ne meurent jamais (which hopefully produces no sequels).
The movie opens with Joachim (Jonathan Couzinié) telling the story of a man he saw in Paris who he refers to as Zoran. A Bosnian soldier, he died on 21st August 1983, coincidentally also Joachim’s birthday, which leads him to believe he is the man reincarnated. We are introduced to Alice (Adèle Haenel), a sound engineer (Antonia Buresi) and a cameraman. Together they go in search of the mysterious Zoran.
The concept is interesting, but unfortunately the delivery is boring. Unlike other found-footage flicks, nothing really seems to progress in any way. The same static scenes are shown, minutes are spent in a woman’s house exchanging pleasantries. There is also the shower scene, which lasts a full five minutes before Joachim actually tells the unshown cameraman to leave.The same conversations are repeated, often going around in circles; it’s like the Blair Witch Project in that respect.
Heroes Don’t Die also struggles with not really knowing what genre it wants to be. It begins as a horror film, Paranormal Activity-style with Joachim being literally possessed at night, and then it evolves into a roadtrip comedy, as they young man is unable to communicate with anyone in Bosnia. This issue is partly due to Le Rapin’s screenplay, which is filled with stiff lines that include observations like “there are so many graves”, while driving through a graveyard, or the describing of brutal bullet holes as cheese. The film could have been a true political commentary on the Bosnian war but, unfortunately, it is not deep enough.
How can we be invested in the plot when even the characters don’t seem to be? We are told their motivations, rather than being shown them. Why is Joachim so quick to believe a random stranger and how did he get Alice to believe? How can the characters drop everything to embark on this trip? Do they work? Found footage is supposed to portray realism, and these scenes, shown off-camera, might have helped with that.
Alice is the most interesting character, perhaps due to Haenel’s superior acting ability. It is no wonder that she is starring in two other Cannes pieces. Unfortunately, she is too weak to carry the entire chemistry between her and bland Couzinié. At the end, the characters are not developed. There is no journey, even though they went on an entire roadtrip. On the plus side, there is some beautiful cinematography courtesy of Paul Guilhaume, showing the true beauty of the Bosnian countryside.
Still, the movie ends with more questions than shots of beautiful architecture. Is that it? What was the point? Was there a message?
Heroes Don’t Die (Les Heros ne meurent jamais) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.