Eden is on DVD now via. Palace Films (via. Madman Films)
Sprawling from 1992 to 2013, Mia Hansen-Love’s Eden spans a generational divide, a gradual loss of a personal movement to the mainstream. The gradual invasion, appropriation, and eventual alienation of a movement built from the ground up has been popular fodder for filmmakers as varied as (names) lately. It’s one that I’m inclined to believe it a by-product of the internet ending the idea of a geographically restricted and entirely self-contained movement, and one that Hansen-Love hones in on in the final reels, particularly when her ageless protagonist Paul (Felix de Givry, playing a stand-in for Hansen-Love’s own brother) meets a young woman who admits the only techno she listens to is Daft Punk. The presence of Daft Punk, friends of Paul who unite at the same time as Paul and his friend Stan (Hugo Conzelmann) form their duo Cheers (named after the popular TV show), hang over the film as both a symbol of Paul’s failure and the eventual destruction of the movement.
But what was in this movement to start with? There’s parties, late night dinners, euphoric dancing in a crush of excited bodies while dreamy synthesizers fill the speakers, all things that would ordinarily make for a film that embodies the sense of community and the carefree times before the rest of the world wanted a piece of the action. But despite these otherwise kinetic actions, Eden feels like its observing from the outside, the camera static and idle, instead of plunging itself headlong into the action. There is no emotional attachment to the music, the lifestyle, the feeling, the community. It’s evident that Paul is based on a relation of Hansen-Love, as he feels more like someone we’re expected to know and therefore not expect any kind of three-dimensional development from. What does music make him feel? Why does he continue to make music, despite his dire financial states? What does being part of this whirlwind lifestyle with a rotating cast of dynamic individuals feel like? He just simply is for the two hour run time, which feels overly generous, lingering on points that could simply be touched upon (eg. his relationship with Greta Gerwig’s Julia, who returns years later to remark that he “hasn’t changed”). The remark is on-the-nose, given that no character visibly ages over the twenty years the film is set, stuck in suspended animation as the world passes them by. But where was the party in the first place? It feels like it ended before the film began.