By: Trevor Jeffery
If you walk in to Eden with little understanding of electronic dance music (EDM), there won’t be much of an issue because you’ll be left feeling about the same as when the movie started.
In 1992’s version of Paris, teenager Paul Vallée (Félix de Givry) sits in the woods as he hallucinates on some sort of rave drug. Over the next 20 years, Paul will: start a EDM duo who brings in a new wave of French house music; have on-again-off-again relationships; develop a drug problem; constantly chase success that keeps narrowly evading his reach; experience several harsh realities of depression; basically, live the life of a low-rent DJ and have the experiences of a rave kid.
Firstly, this needs to get out of the way: Eden is aimless. Plain as the robot helmets on Daft Punk’s heads, there is nothing to be said that can make it seem like Eden has a proper narrative. It’s not paced enough to call it a series of vignettes, either – transitions between situations are too seamless, or years are skipped at a time. Despite its lack of direction, it’s unnatural to call Eden bad. Much like the music it is based on, yes it’s long and unstructured – but there’s something about the warm drone of EDM that sooths and draws you in. And Eden, as a film, does the same.
Paul’s the type of character where you spend half the film thinking you hate him, but you don’t know why, and the other half thinking you love him, but you don’t know why. Félix de Givry is worth noting for executing an exceptional performance, standing out among a cast of already watchable and natural actors. Even though Paul is unlikable at times, de Givry gives him a certain something – warmth, or pity, maybe – that keeps you focused on his frustrating character arc. Félix de Givry also does an uncanny job at embodying ages 15 to 37.
The sets are beautiful, the shots are engaging and not distracting, and the soundtrack is memorable in the kind of way that pricks your nostalgia centre for a time you can’t quite remember. Director Mia Hansen-Løve probably shouldn’t make a habit of ignoring the typical dos and don’ts of filmmaking, but darn-it-all if it didn’t work for her this time; Eden came out polished, thought-provoking and entertaining. Go on and get over the awkward structure and pacing, and the fact that the film might not have what most would call a “tradition resolution”, and I guarantee you’ll take something away from Eden.