World soundtrack awards
Young Critics recensie: Eden
Young Critics recensie: Eden Young Critics
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Samen met Cinea en filmtijdschrift photogénie organiseert Film Fest Gent jaarlijks de Young Critics Workshop waarbij aanstormende critici van over de hele wereld samentroepen om - in het engels - verslag uit de brengen van het festival.

Eden’s timely depiction of isolation and the blurry line between purity and sterility props it up to be an auspicious reflection of the 2020 experience but the film's potential is undercut by its lagging tempo which turns this two and half hour slow-burner into a chore. 

Agnes Kocsis’ female protagonist/walking allegory Eva (Lana Baric) is allergic to contemporary life on this planet. She suffers from some kind of all-encompassing psychosomatic hypersensitivity towards radio waves, electronic fields, and unfiltered air, so she’s only able to go outside looking like a misplaced astronaut. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that she lives in a metaphorical spaceship—a hermetically sealed metal-plated apartment in Budapest filled with steel wire sculptures of animals which keep Eva company in her weird little soulless garden of Eden where life and death converge in an existentially sterilized whole. The only things actually keeping her alive are the two men in her life, who appear strangely enamoured with the vulnerable state she is in and the calming purity of her restricted way of life. On the one hand, there’s Eva’s possessive brother who's addicted to taking care of her and on the other, there’s her psychologist, who can’t figure out if he wants to be a love interest or just an entranced observer treating her as though she were a Papilo ulysses—the electric blue butterfly that catches his attention from behind the glass casing of a corporate hack’s sleek office desk filled with mounted insects.

In struggling with this patriarchal microcosm, Eva exposes how one man’s heaven is another woman’s hell but the film’s tone and pace slowly and meticulously defuse any sort of explosive potential this idea has. Although Kocsis seems quite able to command the viewer’s attention with static long takes that capture and reflect the uncanny beauty of Eva’s ironclad piece of antiseptic paradise, her style’s formally stale consistency reaches a tedium which occludes the possibility that any given frame will stand out. This especially becomes a problem towards the end of the film when the runtime and the build-up really start to take their toll and the aesthetic pay-off for enduring all those rigorously framed shots of gray rooms, futuristic white labs and urban non-places is a somewhat predictable zoom-out showing Earth. While the shot works on a conceptual level by reinforcing the formalist defamiliarization of our planet, it also comes off as a redundant gesture in light of the many scenes where Eva poses in her space suit effectively illustrating the fact that Earth is or can become as hostile and as alien of a place for humans as any other in the cosmos. As a whole, this incessant repetition of themes and ideas that have been already fleshed out spreads the novelty and the impact of the visuals far too thin, so the ending becomes just one more tableau in the steady stream of cinematographic tautologies.

Instead of a cogent tale of emancipation and the dangers of turning into a living corpse, embalmed in the gaze of the people closest to you, Eden is a deathly aesthetic object meant to be contemplated dispassionately from afar, where sterility comes off as stylish.

Stefan Goncharov

Stefan Goncharov

Stefan Goncharov comes from Sofia, Bulgaria. His academic background is in Scandinavian studies and at the moment he is doing a MA in Cultural studies and Contemporary art. As a film critic he has written articles for several Bulgarian outlets throughout the years and has had the pleasure to cover several big festivals like Berlinale and Festival de Cannes. He is also a poet with two published poetry collections under his belt.

Cinephiliac Moment: The sequence in Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg (2007) where the narrator/director recounts the story of how eleven race horses got frozen in a river with their heads bulging above the ice, thus becoming a local winter attraction where lovers go to “spoon beneath the moonlit dome” of Winnipeg. The story is a great example of Maddin’s knack for creating poignant myths drenched in modernist nostalgia and black humor. For me the arresting imagery of the horses frozen in time works on two levels. On the one hand, there’s what we see above the ice—their contorted quasi-expressions and the inhuman gaze of death made flesh. At the very end of the sequence the camera even zooms in on one of the horses’ eyes diving straight into the heart of darkness where Eros and Thanatos are mysteriously intertwined. On the other hand, there’s what we don’t see—the animal’s torsos forever “galloping in place” beneath the ice like distant echoes of Muybridge’s legendary photographs. These horses’ everlasting race towards death perfectly conveys Maddin’s ironic and obsessive nostalgia for the interwar period when all the different ‘-isms’ where at their peak and technological progress went hand in hand with modernism’s naive but powerful utopian thinking. It’s also interesting to note that the frozen horses in the story are eleven while the twelfth photo in Muybridge’s sequence is the only one that shows the horse resting. In other words, Maddin has rejected the possibility of rest, maintaining that cinema is death in motion.

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