Director: Kilian Riedhof (Germany, France, Belgium). Year of Release: 2022
13th November 2015, Paris. The camera closes up on a couple in bed, starting to wake up. They start to stroke each other and look in That Way, when their kid comes bounding into the bedroom. She realises that it is later than she thought and starts to make herself ready for work, he starts making the breakfast while they both have a petty row. When she leaves, the argument has not yet been resolved, but they say they’ll sort it out in the evening.
That evening, she goes out to a concert with a friend. She leaves the flat, insisting that she won’t be late and he should wait up for you. If you recognise the date, or have seen any pre-publicity for the film, your irony sensor should be starting to quiver.
Antoine spends the day unsuccessfully trying to write the next chapter of his book. When he realises that he’s getting nowhere, he trawls social media, where we can see details of the evening’s football game – an international friendly with Germany. The day drags on, and in the evening, he gets a phone call asking him if they are all right. Although the caller uses the vous/Ihr plural form, he says yes, even though his wife Hélène is not home yet.
As more messages start to come in, Antoine flicks on the tv. He sees pictures from the football match – there is a crowd of people are on the pitch, following a bomb attack. He learns that there was another attack at Bataclan, the venue of the concert. Now panicking, he calls first Hélène, then Bruno, the friend who was with her. All he gets is their answer phones. In the media reports of the bombing, the number of reported deaths keeps increasing.
Antoine ineffectively rushes around the local hospitals. It takes a couple of days for him to learn that Hélène was one of the dead. His first reaction is largely uncomprehending shock, but later he posts the following message to the bombers on facebook: “On Friday evening you stole the life of a very special person. The love of my life. The mother of my son. But you will not have my hate. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t want to know. You are dead souis.”
Late that evening, Antoine gets a call from a journalist at Le Monde. The facebook post which he made in a moment of diversion, has already been shared by 20,000 people. Could they publish it on tomorrow’s front page? They do, and Antoine has to balance touring chat shows on the international media circuit with bringing up his one year old son, and coming to terms with his wife’s recent death.
Meinen Hass bekommt Ihr Nicht does what it does very effectively. It is a moving depiction of grief, which shows how wide the aftershock of a terror attack like Bataclan 2015 can ripple. It provides a stage for some of the people who are ignored by the media once the Big Event is over. At the same times it begs all sorts of questions about editorial decisions, most notably, why are films like this always about the rich, white guy?
One answer is that the real Antoine’s was just the sort of voice that the world’s media wanted to hear. Not the voice of the bombers, or the racist fanatics who tried to exploit the tragedy, but also not the voice of someone whose skin was a little darker than tv producers were used to. The message is clear – we must pity the secondary victims of the attack, but – just as Antoine does when he sees some kids being racially profiled at the train station – we should walk on past.
Antoine seems from the start to be a bit of a dick. When Hélène is told by her boss that she has to work in the week for which they’d booked holiday, he goes into a sulk and makes it all about him. He wears a permanent scowl, despite his huge apartment in the middle of Paris. When he scours the hospitals of Paris looking for Hélène, he hogs the receptionist and is oblivious to the grieving people who are patiently waiting to find out what has happened to their missing loved ones.
You can say it’s the grief talking – and to a degree it is. But, just as in a scene in a funeral parlour where he just acts up, this is the grief of a man who is used to getting his own way. His friends and relatives make allowances, as indeed they should. But you get the feeling that this is not the first time that they have encountered such childish stroppiness. A chance meeting with a father from the kindergarten shows that Antoine was never very aware of much beyond himself.
Here’s an idea for a film. We follow the partner one of the victims of the terror attack, but it’s not a rich white journalist, but a Muslim, maybe someone who wears a headscarf. We have to watch her grieve at the same time as passers-by stare at her with hate and blame her for the attacks. She does not have a big house and hordes of relatives who can drop everything to come and help, but is left alone in her tiny flat to deal with her problems on her own.
I am not saying that this is a bad film – it is very good at what it does, and deserves a watch. But it also shows a distinct lack of imagination. By showing the same old people who appear in nearly every film, it somehow minimizes the tragedy, and almost makes us feel that this is something which affects the sort of person who appears on film but you never see down the supermarket. All of which makes it a good but not a great film. Enjoy what’s there but it could do better.