Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2014)
Eden screens at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center on Sunday, March 29 and Wednesday, April 1. For additional ticketing information, please click here.
With 2011’s Goodbye First Love and now Eden, Mia Hansen-Løve has emerged as cinema’s preeminent poet laureate on the concept of time. Most writer/directors do not have the luxury that was afforded to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, where a decade-long production provided a subtle and seamless movement of age captured on celluloid. With Eden, Hansen-Løve makes the most of her limited economy, submitting a film of potent immediacy. Whereas a director like Linklater would be quick to conceal direct passages of time, with no particular interest vested in confining narrative arcs within specific years, it’s Hansen-Løve who utilizes yearly benchmarks in direct and often times startling ways.
The film follows the travails of a young Parisian disc jockey named Paul (Félix de Givry). It’s the early 90s and Paul’s obsessed with garage house music. He quickly finds himself investing much of his time and ambition toward the music, carving his way through the scene. Years pass and his interest remains steadfast, though he struggles to make ends meet. He’s on the fringe, the proverbial starving artist who’s his own worst enemy. Set backs mount and his capacities to rebound tie in with his age – the older he gets, the more it becomes clear that his dreams will be left unrealized.
Hansen-Løve’s technique is simple in concept but profoundly affecting in execution. Take for example her use of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter (played by Arnaud Azoulay and Vincent Lacoste respectively), otherwise known as Daft Punk, in the film’s narrative. They’re peripheral characters, with a running joke that they’re simply incapable of getting into a club. But Hansen-Løve’s casual use of the characters casts a shadow on her lead, a method that was similarly used in Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis, when one can casually catch a glimpse of a young Bob Dylan. Conceptually, Hansen-Løve utilizes this as a means of conveying Paul’s proximity to success, and it becomes especially poignant as time begins to play a more critical role in the film’s narrative – Paul and Daft Punk have the same origins, with the same trajectory in mind, though it’s through time that we see the distance between them widen.
Paul’s ambitions are clouded by personal vices but that doesn’t necessarily prohibit him from obtaining a measure of success. In an ominous but moving montage (ironically set to Daft Punk’s “One More Time”), we see Paul and his entourage embark on an American tour, including trips to New York City and Chicago. The sequence is a breathless example of Hansen-Løve’s encapsulation of time – movement is swift and cuts are fluid as Paul’s happiness informs rapid passages of time. This is sharp filmmaking where narrative, emotion, and form operate harmoniously.
While unlikely to convert any non-fans, Eden’s music is a rich array of house and electronic that represents their eras while functioning on a more critical thematic level. As Paul reaches a crossroads, he returns to the club that he once played for. Now in his thirties, the once youthful boy is a man listening to a nubile teenager’s serenade – it’s a stunning rendition that ultimately leaves Paul more conflicted than before. Like watching Ellar Coltrane age in Boyhood, we see a singular moment where a man looks back at his life and sees the years escape him, all while Daft Punk’s “Within” is overheard on the soundtrack. To put it simply, this is the sort of film that’s just as incredible to listen to as it is to watch.