Feel Flows, by Scott Nye
Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden is an intimate epic, spanning twenty years without reveling in period detail, grand physical transformations, or double casting. Her characters age in their eyes, their posture, their passion. What once was a vital life force becomes routine; a great love, a burden. Paul (Félix de Givry) begins the film a curious teenager, gazing at the stars before descending into a rave onboard a submarine. He ends it a man who “used to be in the music business,” alone in his studio apartment, ruined by debt accrued in his pursuit to be a DJ. Many grand moments in between are elided, more suggested than shown. Friends gradually drop away, girlfriends are suddenly absent, success seems to run away the second it seemed within grasp. He and Louise (Pauline Etienne) fall deeply in love, but he can only commit so much of himself. Time seems to slip away; the highs become tinged with the stench of what they lead to, or what they overlooked, some tragedy taking place offscreen while you’re too caught up in stuff that seemed so, so, so important.
The rush is inescapable. Once he dives into the current of an essentially foolish endeavor, it quickly becomes too late to stop. He’s celebrated, if only by a small group. Beautiful women flock to him. Living by night dilutes the sense that the days are rushing by. Weeks or months can be spent trying to get to the next level; once there, how to you regain them? A relationship crumbles, but the one that takes its place can never have the same intimacy. She’s fun, she’s extraordinarily kind, but she doesn’t really know him. She cannot comprehend your breakdown, nor could he explain it. He spent so much of the relationship trying to win back the last girl to leave you anyway. Any potential investment in the present was all spent up chasing what’s already gone.
And then, suddenly, it’s all gone. Everything. Just like that. There is no big score, no last chance to win it all back. Just a series of small responsibilities that will keep your life basically afloat. Hansen-Løve’s approach is in persistent denial that life will offer the sort of emotional catharsis that art provides. When things are awful, sometimes there isn’t somebody to cry to, even yourself. When things are great, you never really realize it. Her camera, under the direction of Denis Lenoir (Still Alice, Carlos), is hardly impatient, but it’s rarely settled, either. Like Paul, every good thing it surveys – women, the clubs, gatherings of friends – seems taken for granted unless satisfying an immediate urge. When Louise stretches nude in the morning sun, he can’t take his eyes off of her; when she cries helplessly in bed, she’s a barely-acknowledge nuisance. Drugs are a common presence, but are most shoved off to the sides of frames or quickly cut away from; rarely do they dwell on what they’ve done. Always looking ahead to a possible future, some life not yet lived.
He’s not a bad guy. He’s young and careless, but who isn’t. The tragedy is that he cannot reconcile his passion and his responsibilities to others. Life can be overwhelming that way; it takes years to figure out everything there is to manage, and a lifetime to figure out how to manage it. I can’t think of a better portrait of life as a twentysomething. And it doesn’t hurt that it covers all the somethings.
Eden is out now in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. I first saw it last November, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Revisiting it this past week was all the more revelatory. It’s easily among the finest films of this or any other year, and reaffirms Hansen-Løve as a vital voice in the medium.