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We Talk to the Stars of "Eden" About Fictionalizing the French House Experience

Félix de Givry and Pauline Etienne - Courtesy of CG Cinéma.jpg
photo courtesy of CG Cinéma

Mistakenly thought of as a "film about Daft Punk,"Mia Hansen-Løve's critically-acclaimed Eden just uses the infamous duo as celeb-bait. Sure there's a few soundtrack nods and a humorous scene where they're denied entrance to a club, but the core of the film really lies in the story of Paul -- the fictionalized version of Hansen-Løve's brother Sven played by Félix de Givry. Chronicling the slow, mind-numbing burn of a mildly-successful arts career peppered by trysts, tears and plenty of blow, we got the chance to chat with both Sven and Félix about what it was like working together, balancing fact and fiction, and bridging the gap between genres and generations. 

What was it like when you guys first met? What's your relationship like now? 

Félix de Givry: Actually the first time we met, it was kind of funny because he had stopped DJing for a while, and he was DJing for this production company for the release of a film. It was the first time I met him and you could see he was so unhappy behind the decks. So that's the first time I saw him. Then I guess I spent more time with Mia than with Sven, but we spent a lot of time actually watching footage, pictures. He gave me the comic book. So it's this kind of stuff, more technical things. Then [there's] Mia, who's more about the character. I'd say Sven was more about the background than the character. 

Sven Hanson-Løve: A lot of just talking, not only about the film but of many things. It was interesting because Félix comes from a younger generation, and doing the film with him was a way also to approach a young generation, to make a link. He comes from a background that is not too different from mine, so we share some things about that. So it was an interesting thing to 

Sven, you co-wrote the script, right? I think Mia mentioned previously that the film is decidedly "uncool." Why did you want to approach and retell your story in that way?

SHL: Right. I think we wanted--especially Mia--to tell a story in a different way, not the usual way. Especially when you [think] of the club DJ scene, you have all those clichés that you can expect. And Mia--of course, it's our scene, it's adorable, all these [clichés], so she wanted to do something different, something that brings a new perspective about something that people don't know that much. Her approach was a more realistic, naturalistic approach, try[ing] to be a more authentic perceiver. If you are really true about the DJ world, you can speak about the good side, but also the bad side when you tell the truth. Don't emphasize or romanticize the drugs, and just be honest about it. 

Talk to me a little about adapting your life for the screen. How exactly did you guys toe the line between fictionalizing and keeping faithful to your experiences? 

SHL: I think it was a natural way. She started by interviewing me and asked many, many questions about the past, so I can give her inside anecdotes, stories. Then she started to write, but that all came rising naturally, in an organic way, simple way. Then we realized everything was mixed up, the fiction--something that she invented--with the real things. Of course there are things I know that are real and [that she] didn't invent, but some things I don't know, so it's a big mix-up. 

Tell me a little about what the French rave scene was like back in the day. Would you say the movie is an accurate recreation of what you experienced in your heydey?

SHL: Yeah, yeah, because she was so careful about being precise, about details and everything, that I got the feeling it reflected really well what it was. All the people who were part of that scene and who spent a lot of time in those parties back in the day, they were impressed by the fact that we captured rather well the way it was. But it has a lot to do with the care of the details. 

Yeah, the details were really impressive. I noticed that you guys made a really big effort to keep a lot of the history of house music itself intact with things like the Arnold Jarvis cameo and inclusion of seminal Trax Records songs. Did you think it would be a problem for people who weren't really familiar with house music at all? Because it's a lot to sort of throw at the layperson. 

SHL: Yeah, it was something--we tried to explain a bit what it was, to have also an approach that is like [educational], to try to explain in a way what it is, because we knew that the film was surely going to be screened everywhere, and people know nothing about that music. On the other hand, we couldn't be too much like teachers. We had to find the right balance between explain[ing] things to people who know nothing about it and [those who do]. I guess [for] people who know nothing [it] could be a little complicated toward the end. But actually, mainly people know about it right now--the DJ scene, the club scene--because it's so large. It's mainstream culture right now, almost. So many people know what we are talking about. 

Was it sort of intimidating for you [Félix] to be acting with Sven watching you the entire time?

FD: No, because he was never putting pressure. I always felt like I was the character and that I was very free to play around and do whatever I want. It's mostly Mia who was more [directorial], who really knows what she wants. From Sven's perspective I could play around with it, but from Mia's perspective there was less space. She had a clear idea of what she wanted. 

Were you a big house fan before? 

FD: I was really into electronic music, yes. I'm very young, and the film enabled me to explore details that you don't find normally on the Internet or that [aren't] really documented. It gave me the opportunity to go to the root of what it was, because the feeling I discovered in the film is that the first people who actually did this movement were so few--like a group of people going to raves and always meeting in these shops. So having access to these people and talking to them about this era was amazing. 

On that note, what was it like bridging the generational gap? Do you think you guys did that successfully, and was it difficult to integrate both of your [Sven's and Félix's] perspectives?

FD: It's like a reverse, you know? I'm 20, he's 40, so for me it's easy to do a 20-year-old character. We both put our original perspective and mixed in a big blender, somehow. 

A lot of people want to know as well is what your relationship to Daft Punk is like now. Do you guys still keep in touch? Is that how you financed the soundtrack? Cause you guys have some real heavy-hitters in there for an indie production. 

SHL: I'm still friends with them. Not as I was in the past, because I was friends with them when we were all very young, and before they were [so famous]. Then I kind of more or less lost touch with them, but right now I'm still friends with them. I went to Thomas's birthday, and they have been so nice with us, for helping us with the film in many different ways. 

They helped with the music licensing? 

SHL: Yeah, they helped us first of all because they agreed that we do the film. Then they helped us, because they gave us songs for a rather cheap price -- the right of their music, the three songs that we used in the film. That really helped us to do the whole soundtrack. Because of that, it really opened some doors. And they helped us also with the script: they gave us some comments, critiques, and suggestions. We have a very good relationship with them and see them sometimes.

Eden is playing in theaters now.

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