Sven Hansen-Løve and Félix de Givry Talk About ‘Eden’ and the Music Behind the Film

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It’s a familiar tale. A young person enters a subculture and finds fun and acceptance before the party goes on too long and their youth disappears in a haze of late nights. Eden, the latest film from Mia Hansen-Løve, may tell a somewhat familiar tale, but it avoids falling into the traps of heavy moralizing or sentimentality. (My review here.) The film co-written by Mia and her brother Sven Hansen-Løve is a semi-autobiographical exploration of the electronic music scene of Paris starting the ‘90s, based mainly on Sven’s own experiences as a DJ. Starring in the film is Félix de Givry as Paul. The young actor gives a phenomenal performance, convincingly playing a much older character for much of the film. I recently got to sit down with Sven Hansen-Løve and Félix de Givry for an interview to discuss the film, its influences, and the music scene that movie covers.

I’m an outsider to the world of electronic music, could you help explain the musical scene that you’re portraying in Eden?

Sven Hansen-Løve: I was a very young, around 18 years old in Paris, France. And I all I knew was – the music was influenced by rock, funk. You know, things like that. Then a neighbor of mine was a bit older and a gay guy, like a crazy guy, very funny. He said to me and another friend, ‘Let me invite you to a party and I’ll show you something you’ve never seen before.’ And we went to our first rave party. It was really incredible because it was completely new and revolutionary to us. We discovered a world that was so different from all that we knew before. So I was very attracted to this, and it was really underground then. It’s like knowing a secret that nobody knows. I was captured, like attracted to this world and I discovered this music, electronic music. And you have to think at that time it wasn’t big at all. It was really almost new, and nobody knew it, and it was fascinating for us. The people were very happy and they were looking different, they were dressing different, and it was a completely different vibe than what I knew before. So that’s the way it started for me.

Then I went to more and more parties and I discovered all the people around this scene. They were doing some press, radio shows, and things like that. There was a kind of energy around it that attracted me a lot. What can I say about it? It’s a hedonistic way of life. At that time I was really happy, positive and powerful, and was happier in a way than the music before.

Did you have any personal connection to the music or did you just see a really good role?

Félix de Givry: In some ways I listen to electronic music but I wasn’t deeper into the ‘90s, because in the ‘90s I was a three-year-old or a two-year-old. So I kind of discovered more, like I knew on the surface what it was about but I didn’t know deep inside. I kind of discovered the roots of electronic music and it was really fascinating for me. Especially because it’s not an era very documented in a way. You can’t find a lot of information because it was so underground in the ‘90s. Yeah, I knew a bit about it and discovered a lot in the process of the movie.

With the subculture portrayed in Eden, you have someone who finds acceptance in an underground movement and finds themselves lost in it. Do you think that’s something inherent in a lot of subcultures, like punk, metal, and hip hop?

Sven Hansen-Løve: Definitely. It’s all about the underground scene to be accepted. I was just saying, in the underground scene you can feel that with much underground music. It’s also related to being young. Because when you’re young, you like to feel like you’re part of a movement and it’s even more enjoyable if the movement is secret, underground and you’re the only one to know. There is something that speaks to the youths, I think.

Félix de Givry: I think it’s very related to drugs myself. Each movement of music has its own drug that determines the rhythm of the music. If you think about LSD in the ‘60s, the music was very slow. If you think about the music of the ‘90s, the beat was quicker because ecstasy.

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How much of the film is fictionalized as opposed to autobiography?

Sven Hansen-Løve: It’s hard to say. I co-wrote it 3 years ago with my sister. I put many anecdotes that were really close to the truth, and some of the things my sister invented. To say how much is real and how much is not – I don’t know, half is real and half is not. But it’s hard to say. I think at the end of the whole thing it doesn’t matter so much. What is important is what we tried to express in the film, and whether it really happened or not doesn’t matter so much anymore.

Were there any challenges to playing a character over the span of 20 years?

Félix de Givry: The most challenging years were the middle between the two of us. Doing a character my age, even though I’m very [indiscernible] from the character, there’s something quite generational, like quite close to what you’d live in parties in France and stuff. Doing a character that is close to the age of Sven, I had a closer feeling to the reality. But in between there is this kind of 5 years in the 30s – you know, end of 20s – which was a bit more blank because I didn’t really know. I haven’t lived those years. What I’ve been saying in interviews is that it’s close to where the character is – somewhere he’s lost, but he’s not aware that he’s lost. It was tough some days. We were shooting in an apartment, and we’re shooting a character who was 20, a character who was 30, a character who was 35 during the same days. Fortunately, he had the same haircut.

What were some of your influences in creating the film?

Sven Hansen-Løve: The music, first of all, was a big influence. What this music from that period expressed was an influence for us, because I think my sister wanted to make a film about it but to also try and get what the theme of the music was and is. Also my sister is influenced by some other film directors from the past or even more recent. We watched a lot of movies [indiscernible] and [indiscernible] and 24-Hour Party People. It’s different but there are some links. I wouldn’t say it’s a direct influence, but in a way it influences us because it was a good way to talk about this, the club culture and everything.

And what about influences on the writing?

Sven Hansen-Løve: Some writers have written very well on the club culture, like Jay McInerney. He wrote this book Bright Lights, Big City. He’s a writer from New York and he wrote a lot about New York in the ‘80s, the club scene. He has a very authentic and very subtle way to write about. He’s also a kind of influence, not a direct influence. But I guess it was probably in my mind or inside me in some way.

Daft Punk plays an important role in the film, the shadow of their influence looms over everything. What could you say about their influence on the scene and your own work?

Sven Hansen-Løve: In many ways, and for the film in particular, we had many conversations about it, and they gave us some comments and critiques and suggestions for the scenes. Especially the scenes with the kind of running joke where they’re coming to a club and can’t get in, which is actually the truth. They told us that story and Thomas [Bangalter] told us we could put that story in the film because it would be a good thing. So they helped us in that way. In a more general way, their energy and their visionary side in what they do and the pop side. It was also interesting for us in their success and the way that they’re huge and people don’t know their faces. Things like that.

What what is like getting Greta Gerwig in the film? Adding her gives the film a bit of automatic indie-cred in America.

Sven Hansen-Løve: When we asked for her, it was three years ago. Mia asked for her actually. Her agent, manager, or something said it wouldn’t be possible because it was too small or something. Fortunately, she heard that Mia wanted to have her in the film, and said, “Yeah, I love Mia. Are you crazy? I want to be in the film.” So my sister was very happy. For me, it was something nice because I first saw Greta Gerwig in a very small part in a film and I immediately fell in love with her in a way as an actress. She had a small part in a horror film – which was a B-horror film, a long time ago before she had more success – she really had some character and presents it.

Félix de Givry: It was really cool. She’s really nice. I met her before shooting during the Frances Ha premiere. She’s really nice.

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