“I hope this film helps people talk about their trauma”: Anna Winocour on Paris Memories
Paris Memories is the feature from French writer-director Anna Winocour following journalist and translator Mia (), whose impromptu decision to hop off her motorbike and pop into a restaurant for a glass of wine to escape the rain turns hellish when a mass shooting breaks out. While she survives, albeit wounded, she has no memory of what transpired from the moment the incident began. And so follows, three months on, a painful process of piecing together her experience in order to find a way back to her old life and self – a goal that may prove ultimately unreachable.
The 13th November 2015 mass terrorist shootings that struck multiple venues in Paris (including cafes and restaurants as well as the Bataclan concert hall, killing 130 and injuring many more) reverberated through France and beyond. Paris Memories is one of a number of films seeking to find ways to represent and process what happened. In contrast to Cedric Jimenez’s more literal approach to reconstructing the events and aftermath in November, Winocour (whose own brother was a survivor) seeks to capture a more emotional response, plunging her audience into the disorientation felt by her protagonist as she tries to navigate the knotty stages of overcoming her trauma and regaining her memory, channelling difficult feelings into a detective-like determination to find the truth. The efficacy of this perspective rests predominantly on the phenomenal performance of Efira, which conveys a multiplicity of emotions – at times wordlessly. The film also cleverly delves into the fragile nature of memory, with other survivors’ recollections and accusations of Mia seeking to save herself at the cost of others’ lives, resulting in narratives in her head she can’t tell are false or not.
Despite the tragedy at the story’s core, there is a sense of hope and faith in humanity that emerges from the connections and moments of kindness Mia encounters, in particular, the bond that forms with fellow survivor Thomas (Benoît Magimel), and her hunt for the stranger who helped her survive. Trauma may change us irrevocably – but facing and accepting that fact can be the first step on the path to moving forward.
The Upcoming had the pleasure of speaking with the director during Cannes Film Festival about why she was compelled to make the film, casting and working with Efira and Magimel, and the importance of tackling tricky subject matter on screen as a way of processing collective and personal trauma.
Paris Memories is released in UK cinemas on 4th August 2023. Read our review here.
Watch the trailer for Paris Memories here: