For Mia Hansen-Løve’s fourth feature she has recruited her older brother Sven to co-write a script inspired by his time as one of the leading lights in the ’90s ‘French Touch’ electronic music scene. Eden is the story of Paul, (Felix de Givry) a young Parisian who falls in love with “Garage” music, to the detriment of all else. He is driven by his passion to learn all there is about being a DJ, forming his own duo called “Cheers,” with his friend Stan. Together the pair traverse the underground music scene, a heady mix of late night studio sessions, monster raves, and illegal substances, falling in and out of love, rubbing shoulders with the scenes pioneers and legends, and always striving to make it by pursuing their need to make music.”
One of the film’s defining traits is its ability to put the audience square into the music scene of 1990’s France. Right from the off, in a party at the bottom of an abandoned submarine, we are immersed in the sounds of time, with Denis Lenoir’s cinematography moving from haze to a rich neon palette as the music takes hold. It’s a vibrant, buzzing atmosphere and its easy see how it holds such appeal and allure for Paul. As the times progress and underground gives way to mainstream Paul remains the same, perpetually locked on the cusp of greatness, watching relationships begin and fade, seeing friends and acquaintances move on or break out, and becoming increasingly lost in the music. Eden, at its heart, is the story of the addictive nature of artistic passion, something intimate and intense, ephemeral and eternal.
In Félix de Givry, Hansen-Løve has the perfect vehicle for her film. The ever youthful de Givry excels in the exuberance of success, as well as in the quiet moments of self-reflection. Even when his character does things that are less than pleasant, he never becomes unlikable. He imbues Paul with a fragility, a tenderness, and with deep enduring passion and verve. Being Paul’s story the women in his life are never completely filled out. Pauline Etienne’s Louise, a fellow music acolyte, has the best arc, and her relationship with de Givry, particularly in the the second of the film’s two-act structure, allows the audience to see one of the prices of Paul’s compulsion. Greta Gerwig as Paul’s American and elusive paramour Julia offers something similar, but serves more to highlight the rabbit-hole that Paul has fallen down and how stuck he is in a permanent loop. Elsewhere Vincent Macaigne’s Arnaud, a man unable to leave or outgrow the scene, offers a glimpse at a future for Paul, while Vincent Lacoste as Thomas Bangalter, and Arnaud Azoulay as Guy-Manuel, aka Daft Punk, show what might have been.
Charting almost 20 years in the life of one young man Eden runs to 131 minutes. That unfortunately is too long, but that is the biggest criticism that can be laid at its door. The music and cinematography evoke a time and a place, and work brilliantly to counterpoint both the ecstasy and melancholy in the live of Paul. For fans of electronic music, or those that remember the early 90s rave-scene, this film is a must see. For everybody else it’s an engaging portrait of the beautiful madness that is the pursuit of one’s passion.