A movie about grief – DW – 11/12/2022

Seven years ago, on November 13, 2015, three Islamist terrorists armed with assault rifles and explosive belts stormed the Bataclan during a concert by the American band Eagles of Death Metal, taking the audience hostage and killing 90 people.

Around the same time, 40 people were killed in attacks on bars, restaurants and the Stade de France national stadium. The Paris attacks by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization hit France to the core, and the Bataclan has become its symbol.

Frame from the film 'You will not have my hate': a man and a boy sitting on the floor of the child's room, playing with building blocks.
Father and son slowly return to a semblance of normal lifeImage: Accomplices Film/Tobisfilm

That night of November 13, the journalist Antoine Leiris lost his wife Helene. They were both young parents, their son Melvil just 17 months old.

As the world tried to find an explanation for the inconceivable horror of the attacks, Leiris posted an open letter on Facebook. With poignant words, she turned to the attackers and denied them, “dead souls”, I hate her, as well as her son’s. The message went around the world.

Leiris later published a book about how she fought to return to life with her son, titled “You Shall Not Have My Hate.”

view from outside

A film based on the book, directed by German filmmaker Kilian Riedhof, has now been released.

A relative recommended the book to him, Riedhof tells DW. He himself, father and husband, moved him so much that he ended up making a movie: “Imagining how this terrorist attack could affect you, it’s a nightmare what happens to this family,” he says, adding that the book hit him very close. away, and that he knew he wanted to make it into a movie.

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Riedhof met Antoine Leiris in Paris. Concerns that Leiris might prefer a Parisian filmmaker were immediately dispelled. “He thought it was good that we had some distance from the epicenter of the action,” says Riedhof. “After all, it takes a certain distance to understand some things.”

Kilian Riedhof in front of posters in German for his film 'You will not have my hate'.
Kilian Riedhof at the premiere in Berlin in OctoberImage: Anita Bugge/Future Image/IMAGO

So the filmmaker took on the role of supportive friend, all the while “well aware of the responsibility.” The trauma is still very fresh in Paris, he says, adding that an incredible number of people have stories about that night.

Avoiding sensationalism

Consequently, Riedhof approached the film cautiously.

Pierre Deladonchamps plays the role of Leiris; she resembles him and conveys the charm and intellect that Leiris exudes despite her pain. Deladonchamps conveys with absolute credibility the shock and trauma, but also the healing of a man who is working to come back to life with the help of his son.

Their apartment is their cocoon, their refuge, where everything reminds them of Helene, but also gives them strength and meaning to move on. The camera is always very close to Deladonchamps and Zoe Iorio, who plays the role of Melvil.

Entrance to the Bataclan, building with glass doors and the Bataclan sign.
Entrance to the BataclanImage: Siegfried Modola/Getty Images

“It was important to us to tell the story delicately and sensitively. It was less about dramatizing and more about listening and empathizing,” says Riedhof. The attacks, the assassins, the corpses are not shown in “You will not have my hate”.

The film focuses rather on the effect such an act has on a family. “Having to deal with the feeling of hate and despair and overcoming that… Turning that into a physical experience for the viewer was definitely an important task,” says the director.

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Taking back the nightlife of Paris

After the terrorist attack, the Bataclan hall remained closed for about a year while it underwent a major renovation. Then the people of Paris claimed the place, defiantly saying “Je suis en terrace” (I am on the terrace) as they returned to the outdoor cafes and bars. They refused to be intimidated or have their way of life taken away.

At the reopening of the Bataclan, British musician Sting said he wanted to remember the victims but also celebrate music and life.

Strong memories, 7 years later

A few days before the seventh anniversary of the attacks, on October 23, 2022, German folk pop duo Milky Chance played to an enthusiastic crowd at the Bataclan.

“We are already used to working here, but he always does something to you. We always think about it,” Karim and Djerry, who work security at the Bataclan, told the German news agency dpa before the start of the Milky Chance concert.

    Milky Chance at the Bataclan, two men, one with a guitar, in the dark.
Milky Chance on stage at the Bataclan in October 2022Image: Rachel Bossmeyer/dpa/Picture Alliance

Playing the Bataclan was a “balancing act,” says Milky Chance’s Philipp Dausch, adding that maybe that was the challenge. His band colleague Clemens Rehbein said that “it is a life-affirming response after all.”

“The fact that concerts are now being held here again and the mood is so exuberant doesn’t mean, or shouldn’t mean, that people forget what happened once,” he says.

Through his research for the film, director Kilian Riedhof observed that the night terror is still very much on people’s minds in Paris: “The wound can still be felt today, people have a very concrete connection with that night,” he says. “But I think Parisians quickly began to counter it with life, to drink precisely that beer on the terrace and to respond with culture.”

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The terrorists’ message was to hide: their goal was to instill fear. But “Parisians understood very quickly that this is exactly what you can’t do. You can’t let them kick you out of public places. They chose to come back to life, to be together, to defend culture: theater, music, cinema. “. — because that’s the right response to hate.”

This article was originally written in German.