Notre-Dame on Fire
Acclaimed veteran French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud finds the perfect medium to tell the story of the fire that tore through the Paris cathedral.
On 15 April 2019, a fire broke out beneath the roof of the Notre Dame cathedral on the Île de la Cité. It soon came to represent a crisis in the soul of France. Annaud’s by-the-moment docu-fiction feature combines actual footage – both official and amateur video – with fiction scenes (at one point an actor playing a fire chief appears to be in conversation with President Macron) to create a compelling, minute-by-minute record of what took place, from the first realisation there was a fire to the battle by firefighters and locals to save their beloved landmark.
Arnaud, an adventurer-filmmaker whose previous work includes The Name of the Rose, Seven Years in Tibet and Enemy at the Gates, here draws on recent ripped-from-the-headlines dramas such as Peter Berg’s Patriot’s Day, and Clint Eastwood’s The 15:17 to Paris and Richard Jewell, in his account of what took place. But he also presents the events as a high-octane disaster film in which ordinary people become the heroes as they do everything in their power to save Notre Dame.