Whenever a musical trend catches on with the public, there are usually a couple of artists who manage to break out and become part of the larger realm of pop culture. When it comes to the house music coming out of France from the late 90s through the early 2000s, the act that broke out was Daft Punk with hits like “One More Time.” But the electronic duo was one of many acts that were part of what was eventually known as “the French touch.” One member of this group was Sven Hansen-Løve, and his experiences during that period form the center of Eden, co-written with his filmmaking sister/director Mia Hansen-Løve. Eden tells a story that’s not often told: it’s a tale of someone who’s neither a major success or a complete failure, instead finding himself in a nebulous middle ground. The question that rears its head throughout the film is simple: where do things go from here?
Eden follows Paul (Félix de Givry) from the early 90s, when his interests in music and production lead him and his friend Stan (Hugo Conzelmann) to working in a specific form of house music called “garage.” Paul is talented enough to find a reasonable amount of success in the Parisian scene, including running his own label and traveling to perform in other countries, but when whatever popularity garage music has starts to dwindle, Paul finds himself left with a slew of debts, an increasingly dangerous drug habit, and a series of signs that things won’t end well.
Mia Hansen-Løve structures the film in such a way that the enemy Paul faces is time. Over the course of well over a decade, Paul follows his dream, and in an instant, years will pass by. Relationships come and go, whether romantic or platonic. Characters like Paul’s American girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) drift in and out over the years, while others like a poster artist overwhelmed with depression make their presence more dynamic.
Though Hansen-Løve marks the passage of time on-screen through a series of well-designed markers, the most significant way time’s passage is demonstrated is through the use of music. From popular tracks (including several from Daft Punk) to the soul-infused tracks Paul loves to play, the shift of music over the course of the film works to create a sense of motion for the narrative. The music is key in showing the movement of a genre outside of its biggest names, and how those caught up in it were destined to play out.