You’ll find great reviews of Mia Hansen-Løve’s fourth feature-length film Eden (2014) here and here, an interview with co-writer Sven Hansen-Løve here, and a convincing piece on Eden’s significance as the first film to take club culture seriously here. What follows is nothing so fancy or elegant, but it’s my attempt to capture the experience for your run-of-the-mill, middle-aged Winchesterian.
A conversation overheard following Film Club 3.0’s screening of Eden:
What just happened?
I have no idea.
Seriously. What was the movie about?
It was a seemingly accurate recreation of the French Garage / House music scene from the 1990s, a.k.a. “French Touch.” Other than that, I couldn’t tell you. The lack of plot and character development threw me for a loop.
Did you like the music?
The music made me want to jump out of my seat and dance in the aisles. Early scenes that combined thumping beats, bright colors, and strobe lights were especially effective; they made me feel like I was right there in the club. Dance music fans will want to revisit the soundtrack (tracklist and clips here).
Was this based on a real person’s experience?
Yes, Sven Hansen-Løve co-wrote the screenplay with his sister, who usually writes and directs her own scripts. His experiences as a DJ in 1990s Paris inspired the role of the protagonist, Paul Valle (Félix de Givry).
Were those really the guys from Daft Punk?
Sadly, no. Vincent Lacoste from Hippocrates played Thomas Bangalter, and Arnaud Azoulay played Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo
What did you think of the acting?
The acting was quite good, with standout performances by Roman Kolinka (Cyril) and Pauline Etienne (Louise).
Did you have trouble matching faces with names?
This was the most frustrating aspect of the film for me. My notes refer to characters like “bald with long hair” (Arnauld), “sad artist guy” (Cyril), and “Wonder Woman” (Louise). We didn’t even hear the protagonist’s name mentioned for the first several scenes.
Does Eden pass the Bechdel Test?
Not even close. Why were there so many nameless female characters?! Paul’s mother, Paul’s sister, someone they call “the Arab girl” who even becomes a member of their intimate circle, a blonde friend who was also in their clique, an aspiring DJ, and a woman from Paul’s writing workshop (note: IMDB lists the name Anaïs for “the Arab girl” and Théodora for the aspiring DJ, but I don’t remember hearing their names or seeing them on the subtitles). To make matters worst, the named female characters were primarily limited to Paul’s love interests: Julia the American, long-time girlfriend Louise, the unattainable Margot, and fellow party-goer Yasmin. I admit that I was expecting more from an award-winning female filmmaker.
What was this director thinking?!
Mia Hansen-Løve is a Parisian actor-turned-director whose big break came with the success of Le père de mes enfants (The Father of My Children, honored at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2009). Although Eden left me scratching my head, after some reflection it became evident that the director’s artistic decisions were on point. The endless string of club scenes, the nameless characters, the staggering amount of drugs consumed, the slow downward spiral into debt and humiliation – her representation brought to life the energy and intensity, the monotony and the chaos of a generation who spent their youth bouncing from rave to rave at the same time that they were searching for something meaningful to ground them.