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Categories: Movie Reviews

Mia Hansen-Løve’s melancholic drama “Eden” explores the clubbing scene in 90’s Paris, with mixed results. 

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It’s easy to respect Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden, but rather hard to like it. Long, dry and punishingly realistic, it’s a difficult two hours to sit through, lacking the energy of the music its characters are absorbed by. 

Set over the course of a decade between the late 90’s and early 2000’s in Paris, Eden tracks the life of Paul (Félix de Givry), a twenty-something DJ specializing in “garage” music who finds minor success before falling into drug addiction and financial ruin while his friends Thomas (Vincent Lacoste) and Guy-Man (Arnaud Azoulay) shoot to fame as Daft Punk. Based on the true story of Mia Hansen-Løve’s brother Sven Hansen-Løve, the film focuses far more on Paul’s day-to-day lifestyle and struggles as he goes through multiple loves, losses and bank accounts while following his passion for music. 

Eden works as a portrait of the young, ambitious yet self-destructing Paul, whose friends revel in a grimy existence of partying, drinking and drugging and whose disappointed mother is a constant source of financial support. But though it’s an important look at the dilemma of young artists living hedonistic lifestyles they can’t keep up with, its cold, melancholic nature, however accurate, will not lend the film mass appeal. The repetitiveness of its 130-minute narrative is punishingly dull, leaving us tired and depressed by the closing frames. 

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My main issue with Eden is that it lacks the same passion for the music that Paul has, the soundtrack using his own garage music sparingly and instead unfittingly overlaying important scenes with famous Daft Punk songs. This definitely drives in the point that Daft Punk are infinitely more successful than Paul, who keeps doing the same DJ-ing gigs for the film’s more than ten-year timespan, but it doesn’t give us sufficient bearings on why Paul is so passionate about his work – why he’s putting himself through all this turmoil of drugs and sex and financial stress.

Eden‘s cyclical nature, as love interests come and go and the music scene changes, does have an important story to tell, but often it feels aimless in its connection of elements and ideas, never finding an overriding tone and ultimately coming off dull and mismatched. A cameo from Greta Gerwig is welcome but underdeveloped, and a gimmick of overlaying letters Paul receives from his various lovers while they read them in voiceover is creative, but to what end?

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The handheld cinematography doesn’t help, with most of it being quite dry and aloof, the camera never getting as close to the characters as it would do in a more intimate drama. That said, the film does have some exciting visual moments during the nightclub scenes, when the loud music and neon lights speak for themselves (Victoria did it better, though). The opening sequence, set outdoors at pitch-black night, sets a haunting first impression, but the energy is lost as the film progresses. 

The thing is, though – it makes sense that Eden has such a downhill energy. The grey, unpolished depression of Mia Hansen-Løve’s film reflects Paul’s mood quite accurately, and is probably quite close to her brother’s own story. For me, that doesn’t make for compelling or memorable viewing – I like melodrama and romanticism and would’ve preferred a more intimate study of Paul’s connection to the music – but if you have the attention span for a slow, restrained and monotonous slice-of-life drama, you’ll certainly get a lot out of it. Just don’t expect to be any closer to knowing what garage music is after the 130 minutes are up. 

Eden is out now on DVD.

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

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Posted on Dec 14, 2015

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