Chronicling the rave scene of the 90s/early 00s over the course of a single film can be a tricky proposition. At best you have dated time capsules such as Human Traffic and at worse you have the shouty annoyance of It’s All Gone Pete Tong. So difficult it is to capture the mood and feel of the time, that the best example I can think of is probably the clubbing episode of Spaced. French director Mia Hansen-Løve’s fourth feature Eden, takes a slightly different approach in that it isn’t necessarily concerned with profiling the culture of the time, but rather wishes to examine the time through the experiences of one individual.
That individual is Paul (Félix de Givry), who starts out as a teenager sneaking out to go to raves and being inspired by the music, decides to become a DJ and together with his mate Stan, forms a duo called Cheers. They have a degree of success playing a Parisian version of Garage music, a cross between Chicago House and European disco, hitting their peak when they are invited to perform at MoMA in New York. However, with the rise must come the fall, as Garage music starts to go out of fashion, Paul finds himself spiraling into debt due to expenses of a life of being a DJ coupled with a cocaine habit.
While the plot may seem pretty standard for a music film, truth be told, the film isn’t too concerned with narrative. Rather, Eden has the feeling that it is being told from the perspective of someone looking back on this time. As a result, the film meanders through the two decades it covers, often skipping years at a time and having supporting characters appear and disappear at a moments notice. This makes sense given that the character of Paul is loosely based on Mia Hansen-Løve’s brother Sven, who was a DJ during this period and who also co-wrote the script with his sister. This gives the film more of an impressionistic feel to it, rather than having any straightforward narrative approach. This works to both the film’s advantage and disadvantage. On the one hand, Hansen-Løve can afford time to concentrate on mood and themes without getting too bogged down in the plot. There is a danger, however, that this approach would come at the expense of the audience’s overall engagement as the lack of any real narrative might alienate some viewers who would perhaps have little interest in the French House scene of this period.
I have to confess that there were times when I started to get impatient with Eden, not because I don’t like the music – I do – nor was it because of its lack of narrative, but because I didn’t find the character of Paul to be that interesting for parts of the film’s running time. I never really got a sense of why it is that he loves the music so much in the first place or what drives him to become a DJ. The character just seems to be to passive for much of the film. It is only towards the latter part of the film, as Garage music starts to fall out of favour with club goers and many of the friends and ex-girlfriends who were around him at the beginning have started to move on from the scene, does the character start to become interesting. It is here that Hansen-Løve poses a question that I am sure has crossed every struggling musician at some point; how far is the dream going to go and when do I stop? There has to be a point when the dream of being a musician is no longer feasible and unless you are talented and lucky enough to crossover into the mainstream, (the example in the film is Daft Punk who are portrayed here in supporting roles and subjects of a running gag that bouncers never recognise the famously publicity shy duo when dressed in their day to-day attire), you have to know the point when to move on.
Well shot and boasting a solid soundtrack, Eden does a pretty good job of capturing the mood of the Parisian club scene of the time. While de Givry puts in a decent performance as Paul, Pauline Etienne as his dour long-term girlfriend Louise outshines him in all of their scenes together. Because of this, the film as a whole doesn’t quite gel together as well as it could. Perhaps the film sums itself up in a scene when Paul and Stan attempt to describe their music to a promoter. “Somewhere between euphoria and melancholy”, Paul suggests before Stan interjects, “Hot and cold”. While there are certain moments where I think Paul is correct, Stan’s assessment is probably more accurate.
[Image: Eden Film UK]