In 2004, at the opening ceremony of the Venice Film Festival, a premiere film won rounds of applause from the professional judges. The famous Hollywood director Spielberg put away his unrestrained imagination in the past, and tenderly told the story of a man who was trapped in the airport terminal for 9 months and saw all kinds of things in the world.
The movie called “The End of Happiness” is a bit heavy on the topic, but the overall presentation is warm and healing, and finally won a global box office of 219 million US dollars.
Compared with the happy ending of the hero played by Tom Hanks who went through hardships and finally walked out of the airport and gained freedom and love in the film, the prototype of the story of “Happy Terminal” – Mehran Karimi Nasseri His fate is much crueler.
On November 12 this year, Nasseri died of a heart attack in the terminal of Charles de Gaulle Airport in France at the age of 76.
Nasseri’s life is quite legendary. Since 1988, he has lived in Terminal 1 of Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years. It was not until 2006 when he was admitted to the hospital due to illness that he left the airport for the first time.
Since then, Nasseri, who has obtained refugee status, has been living in France. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that he returned to the airport terminal again.
”There is no reason to cross the mulberry and dry water, but I hope that Bingzhou is my hometown.” Nasseri, who can’t go back to his homeland, may have regarded the airport as his second hometown, and the airport as the “happiness terminal” he has been looking for. Bar.
“Fantasy Drifting” in the terminal
In 1988, a strange passenger came to Charles de Gaulle Airport in France. The middle-aged man, who identified himself as Nasseri, wanted to travel to London, England, but was unable to provide proof of identity – he said he “accidentally lost” all his documents.
Without documents, Nasseri not only cannot officially enter France, let alone leave France. The French police once arrested Nasseri on the grounds of “illegal entry”. But since he was unable to provide any identifying information, even the police were helpless. Under this unsolvable paradox, Nasseri began to wander in the airport for 18 years.
Perhaps no one can imagine how to live in the airport for a long time, but Nasseri did it. After the initial panic, Nasseri kept his life as organized as possible: He washed and shaved in the airport bathroom, and the few clothes he had were clean. During the day, he likes to read newspapers, magazines and all kinds of books, and share the best books of the month with the staff of the airport bookstore; at night, he sleeps on a red plastic bench, and the sound of the broadcast from time to time does not prevent him from sleeping peacefully .
In this way, Nasseri gradually became friends with airport staff and store owners. These kind strangers who knew about Nasseri’s predicament provided him with convenience within their ability – they were willing to listen to the stories Nasseri told, and in return, they would occasionally buy Nasseri a cup of coffee or eat something. Nasseri was also allowed to wash in the staff toilet. The doctor at the airport came over from time to time to help him do some simple physical examinations.
Some tourists came to the airport to take a photo with Nasseri as a commemoration of arriving or leaving Paris.
Nasseri (right) spent 18 years as a vagabond at the airport
According to airport staff, Nasseri has a strict personality but is kind. He is not ignorant of picking up money, and he has returned the lost property of passengers to the police more than once. Such a legendary experience naturally attracted the attention of literary and art workers, and people continued to find Nasseri, willing to pay to listen to him tell his legendary experience, which also made his life less embarrassing.
The British writer Andrew Donkin also edited and published the autobiography “The Terminal Man” for Nasseri, which was considered “deeply disturbing but brilliant” by The Sunday Times.
Nasseri, who is not like the stereotyped image of a tramp, has instead become an “alternative sign” at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Filmmaker Paul Bezeler, who ate and lived with Nasseri for a while, praised Nasseri for having “a strange mystery to his thin, bald but commanding visage. He looked like a Zen master and A hybrid between the Chaplins”.
Some tourists even came to the airport to take a photo with Nasseri as a commemoration of arriving or leaving Paris. He would not refuse anyone, but he would not accept clothes or money from travelers, because he thought he was not a beggar.
Since Nasseri became famous, more and more people are willing to help him. With the help of lawyers, in 1992, the French court recognized Nasseri’s reasonable entry and stated that he would not be deported. However, because he had neither identity certificate nor refugee status, he still could not go anywhere.
Misty life experience
Regarding Nasseri’s origin, media reports have different opinions. GQ reporter Michael Patney, who interviewed Nasseri, said that even Nasseri himself may not be able to tell what happened to him, “He was born in 1945 or 1947 or 1953, and claimed to be Iranian, British Paul Bezeler believes that Nasseri is obscuring his actual origin intentionally or unintentionally, “once he spent a week insisting to me that he was really Swedish”.
After comprehensively comparing Nasseri’s descriptions of Putney and Bezel, the author sorted out a version with consistent narrative content. Nasseri claimed that he was born in Masjid Suleiman, an important Iranian oil city, in 1945. His father was a physician of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and he was well-paid locally.
After Nasseri’s father died of cancer in 1972, Nasseri’s mother told him that she was not Nasseri’s biological mother. According to the “mother”, Nasseri was born to her father and a Scottish nurse. In order to prevent her husband from being sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, she could only pretend to be Nasseri’s biological mother.
After an absence of 16 years, Nasseri returned to Charles de Gaulle Airport where he had lived for 18 years, and finally died of illness here.
After the quarrel, Nasseri exchanged the opportunity to study in the UK funded by his adoptive mother at the cost of not being able to return to Iran. Perhaps because his biological mother was Scots, Nassari named himself “Sir Alfred”.
Three years later, Nasseri suddenly couldn’t contact his family, so he planned to return to Iran. Unexpectedly, he was arrested and detained as soon as he landed because he had participated in demonstrations against the Iranian authorities.
Eventually, Nasseri lost his Iranian citizenship and was deported. He had to seek refugee status from various European countries and was finally granted refugee status by Belgium in 1981. In the following years, Nasseri lived a life of nowhere, arrested or deported more than once for illegal entry, until he was finally stranded at Charles de Gaulle airport.
Different from other interviewers, Bezel said in the article that he had found Nasseri’s family. Nasseri’s brother, Cyrus, denied that his brother was an illegitimate child and that he was expelled from Iran for protests. Cyrus said that his father actually died in 1967, and the last time he and his wife contacted his brother was in 1976. He plans to find time to fly to London to talk to Nasseri in person. As for whether the two sides finally met, and the authenticity of what Cyrus said, it has long been impossible to verify.
The only thing that is clear is that one of the important reasons why Nasseri, who has a Belgian refugee status, cannot leave is the mutual prevarication between France and Belgium. The Belgian side stated that there is indeed Nasseri’s refugee file, but he must personally pick it up—but according to the country’s laws, a refugee who voluntarily leaves Belgium cannot return to Belgium as a refugee.
Nasseri and the movie poster of “The Terminal of Happiness” at the airport
Years later, both France and Belgium made compromises and were willing to provide Nasseri with residency. But he refused on the grounds that neither country recognized him as a British citizen, and that the name on his identity information was not “Sir Alfred”.
The “terminal station of happiness” that cannot be reached
One day in 2003, next to the bench where Nasseri slept, the phone of a pharmacy rang non-stop. After Nasseri picked it up, the man on the other end of the phone claimed to be the Hollywood director Spielberg. He was very interested in Nasseri’s experience and hoped to buy the right to adapt the story, so there was the later “Happy Terminal” “.
How much Nasseri has benefited from it varies. Some say he made more than $200,000, while other media reports say he received only a few thousand dollars. Nasseri once told the media that he had not seen the movie based on him, but he would hang the movie poster on the suitcase next to the bench and enjoy the fame the movie brought him. “I’m famous now, because of this movie, I’m more interested in America, which is very good.”
In 2006, Nasseri, who had been stubborn for half his life, couldn’t hold back his body after all. He was taken to the hospital due to illness, and he also briefly left the airport before, but soon returned under his strong urging. However, this time was an exception. After recovering from the illness, Nasseri stopped insisting and lived quietly in France after being discharged from the hospital.
For more than ten years, this rebellious uncle has never been seen in the media again. Perhaps it was God’s compensation for his troubled half life. Although the days after Nasseri left the airport were not like the happy reunion of love and freedom in the movie, they were as smooth as water and calm.
The classic movie “Days of Being Wild” said: “There is a kind of footless bird in this world. It can only land on the ground once in its life, and that is when it dies.” A “footless bird”, Nasseri, who has “flyed” all his life, cannot return to his homeland, nor can he go to England, but he can choose where to leave this world.
In mid-September this year, perhaps because he had a premonition that his time was approaching, after a 16-year absence, Nasseri returned to Charles de Gaulle Airport, where he had lived for 18 years, and finally died of illness here.
For the departure of this “old friend”, many airport employees shed tears. A spokesman for the Paris airport authority said police and medical teams treated Nasseri but failed to revive him. “He was an iconic and charismatic character. After his death, the airport was full of regret.”