Wednesday 5 August 2015

Eden (France 2014: Dir Mia Hansen-Løve)

I'm old enough to admit that I never really 'got' the concept of DJing. To me the idea of somebody with a good taste in music, playing a load of their favourite records on a couple of turntables in front of hundreds of adoring fans, was always just a bit bizarre. EDEN does a lot both to change that view and, perversely, reinforce it.

EDEN is the story of Paul, a cool (or detached) teenager in Paris who abandons his creative writing studies in favour of his real passion - house music. It's also the story of youth, friendship and its fickleness, and how different souls navigate the path to adulthood - or not.

We see Paul gradually ascending to superstar DJ status, but never without money worries. The whole concept of DJing is shown as something which can induce euphoria - and these scenes are truly exciting - but has the same downside as more mainstream 'musicians' - the grind of setting up, the hangers on, seedy clubs and promoter disappointments. Paul is a complex soul whose interactions give us different perspectives: seen through the eyes of his mother (who constantly helps him financially) he's a bit of a loser; seen through the eyes of his girlfriends he's cut off and inconstant; but to the audience in his clubs he's an exciting route to a great evening.

EDEN takes place over a period of nearly twenty years, and in an interesting and bold move, the director chooses not to age Paul over this time, analogising his total commitment to his music despite it falling out of fashion and at the expense of other parts of his life. It also highlights Paul as a Peter Pan persona, remaining fixed in his own world while those around him grow up, have families and, in one very moving scene, take their own life. Around him the world also changes and moves on - decks get smaller and door security staff trade clipboards for tablets. When is commitment to a dream no longer a virtue to be admired but simply foolhardy? In one of his darker moments, a drunken Paul is helped home, and an elderly woman passing by mutters "Kids today..." to which Paul responds "I'm 34!" Does he want to be seen as young and mature at the same time?

Without giving too much away, this dichotomy eventually leads to a crisis of the soul. As a DJ is Paul really a relevant musician? The question is answered in two scenes; in one he witnesses a singer - all diva excesses and bling - PAing at a club night, demonstrating a vibrant vocal talent that shows up the relative inertia of Paul's art; and in another, towards the end of the movie, he observes the future of DJing - a woman with a single laptop playing a Daft Punk track to a swaying but otherwise immobile club audience (Daft Punk feature in the movie via a running gag in which, because of their anonymity, they always fail to make it onto clubs' VIP lists despite being ultra successful in their own right).

This isn't a perfect film by any means - it takes a while to find its groove, and the use of real artists sometimes gives the movie a rather flat feel - but ultimately it's very clever, generally extremely well paced, and the constantly roving camera perfectly captures the restlessness of youth. And my goodness it spoke to me about the challenges of getting older and leaving childish things behind.


  1. The Peter Pan analogy is spot-on, and there's also a biblical subtext in the title if you look at it a certain way; Paul is exiled from paradise (the first section of the film) to become a lost soul (the second section), unable to ride the wave and anticipate the next big thing (unlike his compatriots Daft Punk) and thereby doomed to be a "nearly man". As it based on the life story of Mia Hansen-Løve's DJ brother Sven there's a real sense of authenticity to the proceedings (even if you have no love for Garage and clubbing, which I certainly don't). The director channeled her own adolescence to make "Goodbye, First Love" and this is a similarly bold piece of cinema that draws on personal experience, albeit a much sadder and less optimistic one.