Toronto Film Festival: Mia Hansen-Løve finds ‘Eden’
At the Toronto Film Festival world premiere screening of “Eden,” which covers some 20 years of the French electronic music scene, director and co-writer Mia Hansen-Løve introduced the film with a warning.
“People who expect to see a bio-pic of Daft Punk will be very disappointed. There is still time to leave the room,” she said.
Turns out the duo who make up the now Grammy-winning group Daft Punk are indeed characters in the movie, providing a parallel line through the film’s story, which Hansen-Løve compares to the relationship of Bob Dylan to the title character of last year’s “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
“Eden” is based on the life of the filmmaker’s brother Sven Hansen-Løve, and he co-wrote the script with her. In the film Paul (Félix de Givry) starts an electronic DJ duo with a friend under the name Cheers, embarking on the journey that finds him traveling the world but also in many ways getting nowhere. The film covers a period from 1992-2013 and as he sees old girlfriends and friends go on to more proper adult lives – American actress Greta Gerwig appears in a brief but crucial role – Paul finds himself still doing the same thing. The crowds come and go, but his love for music remains a constant.
For Mia Hansen-Løve, whose previous films include “Father of My Children” and “Goodbye First Love,” the process of writing with her brother wasn’t that different from how she worked on her own.
“For me it’s always this kind of mixture of scenes that are memories that I just try to make present again and things that I simply invent,” she said in an interview the morning after her premiere.
“And both are mixed in a way that in the end I don’t know what’s true and what’s invented,” she said. “I simply can’t write differently. But when I say a lot of scenes in my films are inspired by real things, I don’t think of the facts, it’s more about the feelings. And Sven was very open with that and he helped a lot.”
The film is incredibly ambitious in its scope, covering a huge stretch of time that sees changes in fashion and technology, all of which are subtly signaled throughout the film. Yet it is, as are all of Mia Hansen-Løve’s films, acutely attuned to the tiniest details of emotional nuance, making the film feel big and small, sprawling and intimate all at once.
In writing the film, Hansen-Løve was consciously hoping to present new challenges for herself, in particular by exploring a group dynamic as opposed to simply one person’s story – the film focuses on Paul but captures the whole scene. And while the story is very much from Paul’s perspective, the use of a male point of view didn’t feel like as big a shift to Hansen-Løve as some might think.
As she points out, while “Goodbye First Love” was very much focused on a young girl’s coming of age, her two previous films had split their time between male and female characters.
“I’m always surprised to see the idea that we women directors, the material that we should do would be films about women,” she said. “For me, the important thing whoever you are, is to do films about humanity and a vision of world, to be open. I’d like to make films that can be about a man, a woman, a child, an old person. I do not want to be stuck in some category.”
As Paul’s career goes on without going forward, the film takes a turn toward melancholy that seems at odds with its endless nights of parties and nightclubs. Eventually he is forced to leave his music career behind.
“Some people would say it’s a sad ending and it’s about failure, some people would say it’s just about life. I’m more on this side,” she said. “I do think that period is necessary, at least for him. I feel a lot of empathy and respect for people who take a risk, even if other people find it pointless, to give your whole life, or 20 years of your life, to fulfill a dream.”
Toward the end of the film there are two moments which perhaps show how Paul’s time in music was not a failure and that he will go on. One is a recitation of the poem “The Rhythm” by Robert Creeley, while the other is a moment when he hears the recent Daft Punk track “Within” in a club, a plaintive piano ballad with the line, “Please tell me who I am.”
The track, which appeared on the smash album “Random Access Memories,” had not yet been released when Hansen-Løve was writing her script and to discover it was no small surprise.
“The lyrics of the song, it was like it was written for the film,” she said, “which it wasn’t of course, but it really felt like it. It’s like it’s him, it’s Paul. It’s really a moment of connection between him, and the music and myself. It’s the moment in the film where I feel like we all come together. The music is still inside him and nobody can take that away from him.”
With ‘Eden,’ Mia Hansen-Løve has again captured the sort of tender, delicate, complex feelings and moments which are hard to put into words, let alone onto film. With its new-found sense of scale, both in the film’s sprawling time period and explorations of group dynamics, the film marks another exciting step forward for her as a filmmaker.
“I think dreams can never die, honestly,” she said. “The party’s over, but I don’t think the dream is dead.”
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