The concept of a rave is remote and alien to me. The pulsing lights, the non-stop music, the glow sticks, the E, the dancing with reckless abandon. All I have when it comes to understanding a rave is cliché. This was not my culture. This is not my music. Eden is much like I imagine a rave to be, full, long, occasionally exciting, and always tiring. But, once it’s all over, and you stumble out into the aggressively bright outside world all you are is sweaty and confused.
While the bass of the film’s music thumps steadily, with wonderful vocals weaving in and out, the film remains flat.
In her part coming-of-age story, part musical, part historical recounting, writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve has set some lofty goals. For, how do you chart the growth of a musical style, especially when the only real touchstone many viewers have is one musical group that dresses like robots? She begins logically, through the introduction of Félix de Givry’s Paul, our guide through these years of sonic history. He is young and excited about music. He is our gateway to this world and we will ride this course through all of its twists and turns with him as our rock. It makes sense on paper but in execution, it falls flat.
The problem is that over the film’s approximately twenty years of story, Paul never becomes anything more than bland and plain. There is nothing inherently interesting about him. He is the embodiment of mediocrity, lacking in personality or noticeable passion. Attractive enough to never have to be alone, never want for the tender touch of another. Largely this remains unchanged, the Paul of the film’s end is almost entirely that of the beginning. His musical goal is constant regardless of the signs that life hands him to back away. If Paul were someone of more obvious passion or driven by anything but selfishness, you may call his devotion to the turntables brave. But as it is, he comes off as spoiled and entitled. We don’t care that he fails. We kind of want it.
While the bass of the film’s music thumps steadily, with wonderful vocals weaving in and out, the film remains flat. The time passes because that is what time does and the characters simply let life wash over them. As a film, Eden is so unlike the music it heavily features. It is one sustained note and the longer it is held, the less interesting it becomes.
The possibility for connection to the story is slim as it is just so narratively sparse. It is so monotonous that even when large plot developments occur, it is difficult to find a reason to care. Givry merely goes through the motions. He doesn’t communicate any strong knowing of why Paul feels or acts the way he does. He has shown up to work and delivers all of his lines completely, hitting every single one of the necessary beats, all without feeling. We don’t come to understand Paul’s relationship to others and despite following him for 20 years and over two hours, we really don’t know who Paul is either.
There is so much growth in the music, gradually changing and evolving its style over the many years that you begin to yearn for the characters to react similarly.
Story weaknesses aside, the film is beautiful and sonically entrancing. There is so much growth in the music, gradually changing and evolving its style over the many years that you begin to yearn for the characters to react similarly. Hansen-Løve brings us into the underground parties and the energy of the pulsing dance floor is kinetic and palpable. You become involved with the music as it flows, because Hansen-Løve has married the visual wonderfully with the audial. Her touch is unobtrusive and immersive. Nevertheless, the party must eventually end and as the music drifts away, so does our interest and connection to the film.
There is a last ditch effort to add an element of consequence to everything that has come as the film reaches its conclusion. However, by the time it comes it feels hopelessly tacked on and empty. In its execution, Eden nearly argues for the abandonment of one’s dreams, for an effective reality check before abandoning all else for what fuels your passion. Paul was simply along for the ride, not learning but collecting. As each experience happens around him and people drift in and out of his life he seems disconnected and unchanged, echoing the viewer’s own experience with the film. As the music builds, so does Eden, turning in captivating excursions that are a delight for both the eyes and ears. However, it is so lacking narratively that cinematically it never manages to feel any better than incomplete, with little reason to exist other than to celebrate the music of Daft Punk.
As the music builds, so does Eden, turning in captivating excursions that are a delight for both the eyes and ears. However, it is so lacking narratively that cinematically it never manages to feel any better than incomplete, with little reason to exist other than to celebrate the music of Daft Punk.