Sundance 2015 Review: Eden

Mia Hansen-Løve’s love letter to nineties house music, Eden, has an undeniably astounding soundtrack and a stirring message about the power of music., but never completely engages its audience.

Epic in scale, Eden, follows DJ Paul Vallée (Félix de Givry) as he navigates through the French and US house music scene over the course of twenty years. Writer-director Hansen-Løve is inspired by the events that affected her brother, Sven, a contemporary to the likes of Daft Punk.

Hansen-Løve’s narrative is ambitious in its scope, capturing the birth of the nineties club scene and its evolution until present day. This transition is paralleled through central protagonist Paul Vallée’s life – with the music soundtracking the changes in his personal and professional life. With tracks like Frankie Knuckles’ The Whistle Song to Daft Punk’s One More Time capturing the ever changing house scene – Eden is a watch bustling with energy and a pulsing atmosphere.

Seeing Paul’s life change against this vibrant soundtrack has a remarkably emotive impact – with these tracks poignantly paying tribute to the power of togetherness gained through music. We see Paul in a variety of relationships, lose friends, and face his problems with drug addiction, set against this dynamic musical landscape. Hansen-Løve perfectly captures the balance between doing what you love and earning a sustainable living – with the pair rarely coming hand in hand. There’s a real emotional backbone in watching Paul make personal sacrifices and facing emotional battles in order to commit to his passion of DJing.

Given the film’s somewhat long 131 minute run-time, and vast narrative time-frame , Eden occasionally feels long-winded. With a loose chronological structure, Hansen-Løve has a tendency to jump vast time periods with its freewheeling dynamic. This can result in a certain detachment from many of the characters and scenes which feel repetitive (club scenes feel generally similar whether set in 1994 or 2014). Fortunately, bold visuals (particularly in these club scenes) ensure Eden is always aesthetically charismatic – with pulsating use of lighting, atmospheric locales, and a variety of guest performers appearing – Eden is a watch that visually stirs. A grounded central turn from Félix de Givry keeps this chronologically vast piece somewhat grounded with a likeable charm and earnest sincerity.

The bustling and energetic Eden is a fitting tribute to the world of house music that feels brimming with an honest passion. Touching on several fitting themes about the power of music in terms of our own personal lives, Eden hits a unique note, but may jeopardise this with a lengthy run-time and freewheeling structure.

Also featured on The People’s Movies.

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