I’m Not Dead investigates contemporary France
by Boyd van Hoeij
- Mehdi Ben Attia’s second feature, I’m Not Dead, premiered in Berlinale’s Forum section
The French production I’m Not Dead [+see also:
film profile], the second feature as a director of screenwriter Mehdi Ben Attia, premiered in the Forum sidebar of the Berlinale, currently underway.
I’m Not Dead stars Belgian rising star (and the director’s namesake) Mehdi Dehbi, who recently stole the show in the French drama The Other Son [+see also:
film profile], alongside Emmanuelle Devos and Pascal Elbe.
As in that film, Dehbi plays a character called Yacine, who’s here an eager political science student of Algerian descent who moonlights as a scooter delivery man in Paris to pay the bills.
One day, his job takes him straight to the door of his favourite professor, Richard (Emmanuel Salinger), who’s married to Eleonore (Maria de Medeiros), an actress who loves glamour.
What at first seems to be a tale about two people from opposite sides of the tracks who discover a mutual fascination for one another morphs into something quite different about halfway through the film, when, Ben Attia, in an audacious twist, has Richard inhabit Yacine’s body after Richard’s sudden death (hence the title).
The body-switch template is most often used for comedy in U.S. films (in titles such as Big, Freaky Friday and 17 Again) but here gets a serious European arthouse makeover and is clearly used for dramatic rather than comedic ends, with Ben Attia looking at the “New France” from the point of view of a Parisian bourgeois-intellectual who tries to find his bearings in his newly found immigrant-son life.
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