During SFIFF58 a few months ago, I was able to catch Mia Hansen-Løve’s new musical drama, Eden. Despite not knowing much about French touch and the electronic music movement of the 90s in Paris, I lost myself in the euphoric and tragic journey of the film’s central DJ character. Eden is a movie that will etch its aura into your mind, and its 4 hr. soundtrack plays like a history of house music. I was fortunate enough to arrange an interview with writer Sven Hansen-Løve, on whose life the story is loosely based, and Félix de Givry, who plays Paul, the central character of the film. At The Social Study, I sat down with the two French gentlemen to discuss Eden:
Félix, how much did you know about French touch and the electronic music movement before signing onto this project?
Félix: I think I knew a little bit more than normal people know in France. Even more than Americans. But still I was not expert, especially of garage underground scene. I knew about French touch. ‘French touch’ the expression represents so much success that almost everybody knows about the people involved. The most interesting thing for me was to really dig into the scene and the beginning of the scene and the fact that there was so few people, say 200 or 300 people. It was kind of a black hole. It wasn’t documented by the big media at the time and there was not internet yet. Thanks to Sven, I learned a lot about it.
Sven: Yes, the fact that we had the chance to see each other many times. With my sister, too (the film’s director, Mia). It was a good thing for Félix because he could get direct documentation, in a way <<laughs>>.
Félix: I’m friends with Sven. And I read the comic book, Cosmic Machine, and there was a Dropbox file with a lot of files and pictures and videos and stuff.
How long prior to the production did you get started with your research?
Félix: One year and a half.
Sven: Also, because it took us so long to produce the film, to get the money and get the investors, who were a bit reluctant to get into it, because the film about the music is not easy. So it took us almost two years to produce the film, to get all the budget. The good thing about it is that we had many time to speak and get really invested into it.
Eden is based on your own…
Sven: Loosely <<laughs>>
…Loosely based on your own life. How much is fact and how much is fiction?
Sven: It’s really mixed up. Even now there are somethings I don’t even know or remember. It’s really mixed up. Some things are scripted and some things are more or less real. It would be hard to say.
When you and your sister started developing the script, what were the primary emotions and tones you wanted to capture, specifically in terms of the club and rave scenes?
Sven: Well with the rave scenes of the early 90s, we wanted to capture the feeling of euphoria. Something that is brand new to you and almost a revolution, because it’s something you’ve never heard about before. It’s difficult to realize what it was because it was brand new music and all those crazy people coming to Paris, British and American, and everything was new to us. That’s one of the feelings we wanted in the film. And the energy that was related to it, also.
Aside from Daft Punk, there’s generally a lack of French touch artists that have made it into the mainstream. Do you think its better this way? Or do you wish more artists would become more popular throughout the world?
Sven: Well there are a few that made it into the mainstream. Not just Daft Punk but Bob Sinclar and Martin Solveig, not sure if you know them, but…
Félix: It depends for whom. I’m not sure that Martin Solveig has made it into the mainstream. He was really into garage, no?
Sven: The fact that a few made it to mainstream, there are good parts and bad parts about it. The good part is that it helps the others, like myself, definitely. It opened doors to us to go overseas. The bad part is the music became a bit commercial and lost a bit of this underground touch that it had in the beginning.
Félix: The new good and bad part for me, more recent, is that it enabled people to do music on their laptops. You can do music on a train, now. And it all comes from there, the first (Daft Punk) album Homework which they made in their room.
This is reflected in the final scene of the film, which is very sad.
Félix: Yes, the computer.
And that’s a part of the overall somber tone of the film. I read an interview with Mia where she stated that that may have been a factor in having a difficult time securing funding, the sad tone of the character’s story. Was that a common thread at the time for DJs in the Paris scene? Was it a hard and sad time for them, and for yourself?
Sven: Yeah, I mean, for some of us it’s exactly what happened. In different ways but more or less, yes. For some of us, things went really good. I wouldn’t say it was what ALL DJs encountered. But…yeah… Being a DJ is not something you can do all your life. At one point you’ll need to find a new direction. Even the famous DJs.
Félix: They started producing, forming other bands…
Sven: You have to be a musician, you have to produce, but just being a DJ, it became a problem after a while.
Félix: I don’t think it’s only about being a DJ. I think there are other people of this generation that are so hedonistic, that time passed and… I think about people that got stuck in the past and were so nostalgic for an era that was so magical, that time passed and they were suddenly in a new era where everything was so different. For instance, I see a friend’s Facebook posts and he’s always posting a flyer about the 90s and the past…
Sven: I have some friends right now who are DJs and they’re having problems right now because they’re trying to deal with their life and decide what to do like we show in the film. But again, I wouldn’t say its all the DJs. Some of the DJs are doing very good in France.
Félix: It’s about the boundary between personal and professional world.
Do you miss any aspects of the DJ world?
Sven: Uh. Not really, no no. Well…<<laughs>>…no, not really.
Felix, are you able to DJ now?
Félix: I did DJ sort of a few times, but with my computer, so…<<laughs>> But I don’t really DJ, no.
How early in the production process did you speak with and get Daft Punk’s blessing for their inclusion in the film?
Sven: Very early. Because for my story it was really important that we got their positive approval. So as I was friend with them, especially Thomas, so we just ask him and he said ‘yes’ in a very early stage. They were really positive about the project and they helped us a lot. And they gave us some advice and made us rewrite some things.
Great. So, for someone like myself who is not very knowledgeable about the subject, what are some iconic artists to listen to? I assume it’s all available online somewhere, and the soundtrack is helpful and incredible, but what other recommendations do you have?
Félix: The soundtrack is a good start <<laughs>>
Sven: Ha, yes the soundtrack is a good start and you can stream and buy it on iTunes and everywhere. Music from the past or new electronic music?
Music from the past, from the beginning.
Sven: It’s not that easy, actually.
Félix: There’s a lot of early material on vinyl, only.
Sven: There’s a website called traxsource.com and they specialize in house music and they have a section for classic house, and you can find many tracks in that section.
Félix: What’s it called?
So what’s on tap for both of you?
Sven: For me, I go on with writing. I start my studies again. I’m doing a Masters in creative writing right now in Paris. I love it a lot and I’m just focused on writing right now.
What type of writing?
Sven: Fiction. I have no interest in writing for the movie industry.
Sven: <<laughs>> Yeah, it’s all about structure and not about style. And I’m really interested in both.
And you, Félix?
Félix: Me, I have a company with friends. We have a music label and do clothes and we have a magazine. So I’m doing all these projects, and maybe another film, I dunno.
Do you play music?
Félix: I don’t play music. But I produce music. I produced music before playing in the film. There’s a song off my label in the film, at the end.
Sven: Why my sister chose Félix – there were many reasons. He did good when we were casting, but it was good that he knew some about this scene and was already involved. He had his own label and produces music and everything. It was good because he had that energy that I had myself at that time. It was helpful.
That’s all I got. Thank you so much!
Sven: Thank you!
Eden opens in theaters, 6/26.