Eden ★★★

Excised from an upcoming piece on Antonioni and Assayas, which I realized I was just shoehorning for what felt like a) an excuse to finally write on this b) a bit sexist of me to choose that avenue to write about her work, which deserves its own space. Honestly, I'll need to see this one again, as by expanding her canvas, it all seems so broad, when her talents have clearly come in minutia. One scene I love not mentioned below—the fight between Paul and Collette outside MoMA PS1. Shot from a long shot in bright sunlight, full of bitterness but not emphasized in the filmmaking, and cut off when Paul needs to rush back to perform. This is the kind of distillation that makes Hansen-Løve an artist that always defies expectations, even if other parts of Eden do not.

Hansen-Løve’s shots are rarely showy, more concerned with simply capturing bodies, faces, the joy of the air—the last a key concept for Eden, her based on a true story of the rise of EDM music in 1990s France and beyond. On its surface, Eden appears to be simply telling the story of one man’s rise and fall in the music scene: modest success followed by years of toil, drugs, and eventual abandoning of one’s true calling for a life more ordinary But in the same way L’Avventura is ultimately about fear of being replaced, being forgotten, as the disappearance turns into a metaphor, one can Hansen-Løve’s steps as well to a story of constant search for youth. Her decision to age her characters over 20 years without once ever aging the actors beyond a few haircuts can seem infuriating, but it reflects some of same intentions as Antonioni to use abstraction to lead toward psychological realism.

There is a key moment as well that suddenly makes sense of what had been a complacent material of the frame before. Eden slavishly observes its crowds of dancers, but never in an accentuated way that frames them as somehow sexy, but more like disciples in a mystical presence, feeling the air. In a late scene, we see her protagonist Paul DJing away when the camera turns to only reveal five bodies at a small wedding, a step down from the massive MoMA PS1 crowd that appeared earlier. The fleetingness is felt not in the fact of his own downfall of drugs (though it certainly does that as well), but in the ability to see a work of art in its moment, to relive the original rush. It even occurs in the minimal, as Marco visits his ex-girlfriend Collette at her home, and grabs her behind the kitchen sink as he did years ago. This physical gesture reflects the same way Antonioni’s film puts an emphasis on the way bodies move around each other, though Hansen-Løve’s attempts to naturalize it completely in normalized landscapes.