TIFF 2014: Mia Hansen-Løve's 'Eden' Feels Like Daft Punk's 'Boyhood'
by Alex Billington
September 6, 2014
As human beings we live in a universe where time is constantly ticking, the world never stops turning, and we're all constantly moving, whether we like it or not. Before we know it, 5 or 10 or 20 years pass by and we don't even have the ability to pause and look back, to reflect on what has happened and why. Why did we make this choice? How did we end up here? Films like Boyhood are able to capture that relentless progress in an immensely beautiful way, showing how the little moments inbetween make up more of our life than all the big ones we live for. Following in those footsteps, French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve has created her Boyhood, a film called Eden back looking at 20 years in the life of a French house/garage DJ named Paul.
With all the praise Boyhood is getting this year (my Sundance review) it may not be the best idea to compare Eden with that film, but it terms of context, structure and the overall feel of the film, it's a comparison that must be made. The only difference is that Eden was filmed all at once, not over the last 12 years the way Boyhood was. But in terms of the scenes and moments it shares in the life of Paul, the seemingly disjointed nature of the footage (showing smaller moments, bits & pieces rather than big events), and the progression through 20 years in the life of a boy growing up, it's very similar. And it evokes the same awe-inspiring, deeply reflective, life affirming feeling as that film. The more I think about it, the more it grows inside me.
Eden starts out in the early 1990s, at the very beginning of the electronic dance music (aka "EDM") scene in Europe. The main character is Paul, played by Félix de Givry, who becomes a French producer and DJ focusing on "French touch" or "garage" music, a subgenre of house. Over the years he befriends Thomas and Guy-Man, the two Frenchman behind what will eventually be known as Daft Punk, and we watch as all of them attempt to rise to prominence throughout the 90s. But this is only part of the story, as the film spans Paul's life from the 90's to the 2000s all the way to 2013, where he ends up "lost in music" trying to navigate the struggles of his passion for a genre of music that less and less people are in love with. It's heartbreaking.
While the film is set in the EDM scene, from the very start the focus is on his relationships and interest in women. But it's not the sole focus, or at least it doesn't become clear how important these are to him, until the very end. We watch as he spends time with various girlfriends, fanciful flings, and women who use him, over these 20 years of his life. What becomes more and more clear as the film progresses is that life is a wandering, meandering poem that we think we have a grasp on, but in all truth, we don't. And that's where this film really hit me. It started to get a bit too personal (I was a part of the EDM scene, too) and begun to reach deep down inside, making me bob my head to songs while wondering "is this where I'm at in my life?"
While I enjoy the score to Tron Legacy, this is the first film that uses Daft Punk songs for a score in a way that actually elevates the film. From the song "Something About Us", these lyrics rather perfectly sum up the film: "I need you more than anything in my life; I want you more than anything in my life; I'll miss you more than anyone in my life; I love you more than anyone in my life." However, director Mia Hansen-Løve is quick to remind everyone this is not a film about Daft Punk. That said, her use of "Veridis Quo" made me cry, making me wonder if she is just saying that to deter fans of Daft Punk because it's really about Paul, and it's about the lives of passionate people, and how all of us struggle to make a living doing what we love.
In all reality, Daft Punk is part of the film (aside from being lifelong friends of Paul) as a way to show the dichotomy of this world: we watch as they take off, they achieve global fame, while Paul sticks to his style, and flounders, years later racking up debt and wondering if this was all worth it. What does he end up with? He doesn't have anyone left, his friends have all left him, the loves-of-his-life have all moved on, yet there he is, still lost in music, still trying to make it all mean something or lead somewhere else. "Last night I had a dream about you, in this dream I'm dancing right beside you, and it looked like everyone was having fun, the kind of feeling I've waited so long… Before I know, this dream is all gone, I don't know what to do."
At first I was having problems getting into Eden. It starts and moves quickly through the first half without much explanation or structure, just fleeting moments and random scenes that seemingly don't amount to much. It isn't until the second half, once we've experienced everything in the first half of Paul's life, that it all begins to come together. That's right when it really started to hit me, and I think that's how life works too. We may be able to look back at the last year or two more clearly, but it's only when we look back at the last 5 or 10 years that we start to get a better picture of who we are, and why we are, and the mistakes we've made, the choices that define us, good or bad. Whether they make us happy or sad, we must live with them.
This is one of those films I could on talking about for hours. It's a hard one to get into, and it may connect deeply with some, while bounce right off of other viewers. It's not meant for everyone, and it's definitely not meant for anyone looking for a Daft Punk biopic. It's about life, the poetic and complex paths we wander down, that sometimes lead us to places that change us forever, while other times taking us to dead ends. It's impossible to know which path is the right one, but it is possible is to live without regrets, to be passionate, determined, be cautious yet caring, to change when necessary, but never give up, to maintain relationships, to be happy, and to be sad. "I didn't want to be the one to forget… A little time with you is all that I get…"
Alex's TIFF 2014 Rating: 9 out of 10
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