|Interview: Sven Hansen-Love and Felix de Givry on "Eden"
|by Peter Sobczynski
Writer Sven Hansen-Love and actor Felix de Givry talk about their latest film, the EDM history "Eden."
"Eden," the new film from acclaimed French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love, chronicles roughly two decades of the electronic dance music (EDM) subgenre known as garage, as seen through the eyes of Paul (Felix de Givry), who starts out the film as a fan of the music, rises through its ranks as a deejay and then sees his career slip away as he refuses to adapt as the scene changes over the years. Although the subject may be fairly arcane to many American viewers--while garage music does have its roots in the house music movement that developed in Chicago in the early 90's, it has only broken into the mainstream here in recent years thanks to the success of Daft Punk and EDM-flavored remixes by pop stars like Madonna and Taylor Swift--there is an air of authenticity to the material that makes the film compelling to watch even if your working knowledge of the subject at hand is not that great. Much of that authenticity comes from the fact that what is seen on the screen comes largely from the real-life experiences of Sven Hansen-Love, Mia's brother and a former deejay himself who helped collaborate on the screenplay.
Recently, Sven Hansen-Love and Felix de Givry, his on-screen doppleganger, came to Chicago to promote "Eden" and I sat down with the two of them to discuss the film, bringing one's personal history to the big screen and, of course, music.
Considering that "Eden" is about music and how it can change and transform lives, what was the first piece of music that you recall buying or that had a particular impact upon each of you?
Sven: With electronic music, it is probably the first track that you hear in the film, which is J.D's "Plastic Dreams." It is the first thing that you hear in the film and because you don't hear it all that well beyond the bass line because it is coming out of a submarine where there is a party. That was one of the very first, if not the first, that I can think of.
Felix: For me, I think it was the soundtrack to "Barry Lyndon." When I was a kid, my dad showed me the film and I remember asking for the soundtrack for Christmas. It is such a great soundtrack.
How did "Eden," which is inspired in part by Sven's life and which was directed by his sister, Mia, come together in the first place?
Sven: It was her idea. Three years ago, she had finished this trilogy of films and she wanted to go into a new direction and try something completely different--something about the music and our generation in the 90s. As I was a part of that scene at the time, she asked me if I could collaborate with her and of course, I said yes. At first, it was a small collaboration but she would ask me to write and I would write more and more and since she thought I was good at it, I ended up writing about half of it with her. She really came up with the structure and the first draft and then asked me to write other scenes and I became more and more involved in the project.
Were there any particular music-related films that the two of you used as models for the screenplay of "Eden"? Some have noted, for example, that by focusing on a talented member of a particular musical subgenre who is forced to stand and watch as others achieve greater fame and fortune than he does, it bears a certain thematic resemblance to "Inside Llewyn Davis."
Sven: Absolutely. We saw "Llewyn Davis" afterwards but it came out while we were in the process of coming up with the film. It was kind of an inspiration and we talked about it, even with Felix. There were other films like "24 Hour Party People," which looked at the electronic music movement in a different way and was a good thing for us to watch, especially for the club scenes. We watched a lot of club scenes from different movies because we wanted to know whether to go in those directions or not. We also saw a lot of bad films about electronic music so that we could see why it was bad so that we could avoid making those mistakes.
What was it like to try to transform your own personal experiences into screenplay material, especially in regards to the age-old conflict about trying to balance between being accurate and being entertaining while at the same time resisting the temptation to romanticize things?
Sven: My sister cares about truth and reality and authenticity, so the direction she gave me was to stick to the truth. It is not my way to romanticize because I agree with my sister that there is a sort of poetry that comes out of truth and reality if you really go deep into it and try to just recreate reality.
Felix, what sort of working personal knowledge did you have of the EDM world before coming on to this film?
Felix: In France, there was the first wave of electronic music, which was the wave that Sven was part of, in the Nineties and then there was sort of a second wave with bands like Justice in the 2000's that I lived through. In a way, I was connected to it but I was not crazy about it. I had the same knowledge as everyone. When I started the film, I started to dig more into the roots of it and that was interesting for me.
What kind of research did you wind up doing to prepare for the part?
Felix: It was more technical. I learned how to mix on vinyls, which is kind of a tricky thing that deejays today should learn because it is a real mix in the sense that you have to find the b.p.m's in order to make the two vinyls match. One of the first things that Sven told me was that a perfect mix was when you could get two vinyls to play together for a long time. I also did a lot of research with material from Sven, from Mia and from Sven's friends--pictures, tracks that you cannot find on the Internet and things like that.
One of the interesting things about "Eden" is that although it takes place over the course of roughly 20 years and chronicles any number of social, cultural and musical changes over that time, the character of Paul himself not only doesn't change much at all emotionally, he looks exactly the same from a physical standpoint as well. At one point, he reunites with the old girlfriend played by Greta Gerwig and she remarks that he hasn't changed at all and it is pretty much the saddest line of dialogue in the entire film. Since most films, especially of this type, tend to focus on how their characters change and evolve over time, what was like for each of you to write/play a character who is the exact opposite of that approach?
Sven: It was a challenge for us, of course, because we were writing a character that does not really change and that is not very common. There are some deep changes inside of him but they don't really show and it is only at the end that he really begins to change. I could write about it because that is what I experienced in my life because for several years in my life, nothing happened and it was like time stopped. People around me changed and things happened to them but I stayed pretty much the same. That is why the character didn't change physically. Then I woke up one day and it was ten years later and nothing had happened. Based on my personal experience, it wasn't very difficult to write someone like that.
Felix: I guess that is how the film is most connected to the events. People always tend to ask what the really biographical parts are in the film and maybe they are the deep things that are inside. When he drinks coffee this way, it may not be exactly how it happened but there is something more underneath. For the character, I spent a lot of time with Sven and I spoke a lot with Mia about the character and there are plenty of small details. You mentioned "Llewyn Davis"--he is always wearing a lot of clothes as a sort of protection and while that takes place during a small time span, he is always going away so that he is never facing things. This character is kind of the same way. There is one interesting detail in that when he is about 33 or so, he starts wearing a watch because he is finally beginning to acknowledge time.
In doing this film, do you see it as a way of looking back nostalgically at your past or as a way of closing the door on that particular portion of your life for good or possibly both?
Sven: I would say both. When I worked on the film, I had no distance and the distance only really came for me when it was released in France. Now I would say that it does put an end to all of that time.
What was it like to watch the final film and see a version of your life literally play out before your eyes?
Sven: Honestly, it wasn't that much. Once again, I was so much into it throughout the entire process--not just the writing but the pre-production and the shooting and the editing--that it wasn't as though I went to the theater and suddenly discovered my entire life on the screen. I knew each part of the film and I never really had this feeling of distance.
For both of you, what has it been like to take this film around America to show it to American audiences that may not be as familiar with EDM as people in Europe are, save for places like here in Chicago that did play a role in the development in the genre?
Sven: It is kind of moving to me. I came to Chicago 20 years ago--you can see the scene in the film--and I came only as a fan of that music and because I wanted to meet a guy who was a big deejay to me. It is kind of moving to me to know that it is screening in Chicago 20 years later. It is like magic.
Felix: It is funny because of all the places on the globe where we have shown the film in festivals and the press, America has shown a deeper connection to it than in any of the other countries. I think it is because there is a sort of mixture of a lot of things that Americans like. The reaction has been great here.
What are you guys listening to in the way of music these days? Obviously, EDM has changed much over the years and now it is even beginning to make an impact in America thanks to the likes of Daft Punk and appropriations of the sound by pop stars like Madonna and Taylor Swift. . .
Sven: I listen to all types of music, basically. Before, I was really focused on the deep house garage music that you see in the film. Now I have changed and I am listening to all types of music. I still listen to EDM but I am listening to many other things. I listen to classical music and folk. In a way, it reflects to the fact that people now have wider tastes thanks to the Internet. They have more access and are more curious to listen to different types of music.
Felix: I listen pop and electronic music--I like a lot of the labels from England. I have my own label in France so I produce music and listen to what I produce. As he said, I have a very eclectic type of taste.
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originally posted: 06/29/15 12:01:21
last updated: 06/30/15 10:27:53