Monday 13 October 2014

Eden (2014) – Mia Hansen-Løve

Eden has one of the coolest soundtracks of any film.  Set in Paris predominantly during the 1990s, the film’s narrative is set to the backdrop of the development of French electronica and the 'French touch' generation: garage, techno and house.  Specifically, the music of Daft Punk features heavily, with the likes of Frankie Knuckles, Cassius, Juliet Roberts, M.K. and Martin Solveig also appearing on the soundtrack.

The appeal of this musical genre, as the central character puts it, is the contrast between robotic techno and warm, soulful vocals; later he mentions the balance of euphoria and melancholia.  This is something the film equally tries to balance, but it’s less successful than the music it references. 

That’s because the film’s heart is squarely in the music rather than its modern bohemian characters.  The narrative follows aspiring DJ Paul over twenty years of his life, from underground beginnings as he sneaks out at night to attend secret raves, to forming DJ duo ‘Cheers’ and travelling to New York and Chicago; through the trials and tribulations of drug addiction and a string of girlfriends, to finally putting his life in order.  It’s hardly a glamorous view of the musical lifestyle as he forever struggles with money and gradually loses track of his friends and family, who all grow up around and without him.

Yet by the end of the film, do we really know him?  Félix de Givry offers a stoical performance as Paul, but there are only two key moments where he shows any genuine emotion: the death of his cartoonist friend Cyril (suitably accompanied by Daft Punk’s Veridis Quo), and when he finally gives in to his overbearing mother towards the end.  It’s a lengthy film and, at one point, a character praises Paul for not changing, but his lack of development is a major frustration.

One success of the film, though, is the blurring of fiction and reality.  Many of the clubs and parties genuinely took place and the film is full of real-life musicians.  As such, Eden certainly captures the frenetic, buzzing ecstasy of clubbing, hand camera shots artfully interrupted by strobe lighting and pulsing neon.  The rising fame of Daft Punk also punctuates the film.  To quote LCD Soundsystem, they begin by literally “playing in my house”; by the end, Within from recent album ‘Random Access Memories’ is used in the soundtrack, yet the duo are humorously unrecognised without their robot helmets.

Still, the bare-bones plot may be secondary to the music, but it allows those robotic beats and soulful vocals to take the fore.  As such, Eden is a fitting celebration of a hugely influential musical movement.


Watch: Eden screens at the London Film Festival and is released in France in November.