Written by: Mia Hansen-Løve & Sven Hansen-Løve
Starring: Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Hugo Conzelmann, Roman Kolinka, Vincent Macaigne
Passion can take you far in a chosen profession, but not all avenues lead to the success you would hope for. Some of these professions have those famous heavy hitters and everyone else struggling to make each day. Life as a DJ resembles this struggle and Eden displays it in a grueling fashion as it demonstrates what would make it so appealing but also how it can crush all of your dreams.
Despite showing promise of making great progress in university, Paul (Félix de Givry) spends most of his time trying to become a successful DJ with his friend Stan (Hugo Conzelmann) as they form a group. As many years pass they go through the major peaks and valleys this career has to offer.
On many occasions during Eden, you will want to grab Paul by the shoulder and tell him to get his life together as he continually throws away opportunities for stability for the exciting life of being a DJ. This feeling may come from a personal bias of wanting something firm in life, which impacted my viewing of the story. I wouldn’t consider myself a risk-taker, as I need a firm and strong foundation before I ever consider trying anything daring. Paul does the opposite in this venture of being a DJ, which makes this almost like a horror movie for me. He certainly has the talent and the passion, but this profession relies on so many things going right and makes it clear why only a few make it to the point of rich and famous.
The lifestyle required for this job puts Paul and his friends on a completely different schedule than most adults. They work the graveyard shift of putting on shows to display their music and hoping to get all of the patrons of the club vibing with what they bring. Pulling back the curtain of this world certainly becomes the biggest highlight of this film as it displays the real struggles of this lifestyle. Sure, Paul has the heights of playing at MoMA PS1 in New York and getting to travel to all sorts of places to play his music, but through all of it, he periodically finds himself needing to borrow money from friends and family because he cannot meet his basic financial obligations. In these moments, this horror gets evoked as each day can either be terrific or terrifying for Paul. This business rewards risk-taking but it comes with a potentially high degree of pain it things do not go well. As Paul mentions, this field comes with plenty of overhead, and even with tons of success and fan following, they’re lucky to make any profit on these shows.
At each turn, Eden shows Paul not accepting the outs provided to him by friends and family to leave this life behind and start anew, which he refuses because this is his passion. For better or worse the DJ game gives him drive and gets to take all of the popular recreational substances involved like cocaine and ecstasy. All of it proves to be alluring for him but the game does not show him the same respect, which makes the moments of his eventual downfall all the more bitter to witness. It presents this bleak reality where someone like Paul can invest his life, money, blood, sweat, and tears into a passion and still fail. Tough to think about but the film allows it to play out in a matter where it appears he has hit the big stage, but all it shows is a gradual decline and the ultimate shift into the mundanity he has been trying to avoid for years.
Based on her brother’s journey as a DJ, Mia Hansen-Løve directs this film impeccably well in the way she captures these moments of elation for Paul in the club. She evokes why he would be attracted to this lifestyle and what it means to jam out. It’s more than mixing music, as it becomes a new movement where Paul rejects techno and other forms of popular music to put together Modern Disco. Hansen-Løve co-wrote the script with her brother and they allow for the highlights over the years to show the high levels of success but the lack of traction towards an ultimate goal for this character. The scenes in the club have this freeing element for all of the characters where tomorrow may bring its issues, but for the time being, dancing and jumping around provides a freedom no one can take away.
Loving an industry does not necessarily mean it will love back and Paul learns this the hard way in Eden as he gives it all and gets nothing much in return. “You have to spend money to make money” becomes the motto for this path to fame and no matter how much effort he puts in, reality arrives in brute force. The quiet moments in the film provide chances for reflection and pulse-pounding music in the club allow for incredible elation to give the audience the same feelings these characters embrace whenever they step onto the floor or behind the booth.