Eden is a rare film in that it portrays the almost-success and not-quite failure rarely seen in cinema.
Rather than going for the spectacular rise or fall either way, this fictionalised account of the house music scene in Paris depicts a life based around the experiences of DJ Sven Hansen-Løve.
Sven and his sister, director Mia Hansen-Løve, wanted to show a less glamorous side to the music industry - away from the yachts and the champagne lifestyle – and it works.
"My sister wanted to have a realistic approach, and that’s what’s really different and fresh about it," he says. "It’s surprised people. It’s a different way to view that scene in Paris without glamorising it."
With the film struggling to get financial backing, the siblings had a whole year to put together the soundtrack, beginning with over 200 tracks that were cut until they had their final selection (including three from Daft Punk themselves).
One of the best elements of the film is the contrast between the central character's struggle to do anything as ground-breaking as his contemporaries.
The duo, referred to fondly as 'Le Daft' by Parisians, are always present in the film, in the background, becoming more and more successful. After a writing class, the central character asks a friend if she listens to dance music.
"Some, not much," she replies, followed by the wince-inducing: "Only Le Daft."
"I didn't have the same ambition as them," Sven says. “Even when I met them when we were very young, myself and the people around them knew they were going to be big. I wasn’t as visionary as they are. I think one of the reasons for their success is they can tell what’s going to happen in the future, and big artists are very often like that.
"But I was never jealous," he continues. "I was different in that I was very into partying. I wasn't thinking about the future."
While the film is loosely based on his experience, Sven says a film would always be too short to express the complexity of one person. "Some details and stories we tell in the film, I’m not even sure happened because memory can be tricky. And in those days I was taking a lot of drugs, so I’m not sure."
The heady club scenes were shot with intimate detail – a preview screening saw every audience member blinking as strobe lights flashed and the music grew louder with every second. This was an important element of the film, for its creators to capture the realism of the time without "losing the emotion", as he puts it. And that atmosphere was apparently so strong that when a scene ended the actors were still dancing.
Unlike the character in the film, Sven, who still DJs, says he doesn't play garage music now because it’s "kind of dead". It’s ironic that he's let it go, when in Eden, a stubborn refusal to do so is part of what causes the character's downfall.
Felix de Givry, who plays Paul Vallée, is similarly disinterested in garage but has a fascination and passion for the music scene in France.
He talks of how although there was plenty of time to prepare while producers sought financial backing, discussions were less of his character and more about the music, location, and the people surrounding Paul.
"With Sven the script was sort of a basis and we talked about other stories that would make the script more alive," Felix says. “It was sort of a line between fiction and reality, creating a third character between him and me."
There's a wonderful moment that arrives late in the film where Paul is helped up the stairs to his apartment by two friends, in one of his worst states. An elderly neighbour passes them, tutting about young people.
"J’ai 34 ans!" ["I'm 34 years old!"] Paul yells before the door slams behind them.
The scene encapsulates that sense that Paul is incapable of growing up, both mentally and creatively, helped by the fact that Felix plays the character throughout the film and emphasises that agelessness.
"We were shooting different moments of the character’s life, so he could be 13 then he could be 35 in the same day. He grows a beard and has these little wrinkles but otherwise he doesn’t age that much. And I think Mia wanted that because the character doesn't grow up."
He asks if I’ve seen Sven in person (I haven't). "Sven really looks young; he doesn't look his age at all. He looks like he sold his soul to the devil. And for some people it’s nice when you’re young and look older, and maybe it’s better to look young when you’re older, but for him [Paul] it’s a reflection of him not moving anywhere, so it’s a problem."
He describes modern French house music as something very different from the 90s.
"They were in a generation where there was no war, no crisis. When I talk about the 90s I say it was between the Berlin wall and the Twin Towers. There was this sort of hole in which everyone was able to be hedonistic. We’re a very anxious generation, so the music we make now comes from something deeper."
Eden is in cinemas nowReuse content