Camerimage Blog is open to all kinds of writers who want to share their work with the world. In this first guest post we present an interview conducted by Marta Bałaga with director Mia Hansen-Løve. Leave your comments under the post, and if you’d like to write something for us, don’t hesitate to write to email@example.com!
French director Mia Hansen-Løve works fast – at 33 she has already managed to make 4 acclaimed feature films, one of which, “The Father of My Children”, was awarded Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at Cannes. However, she still looks and acts more like a teenager; during our encounter she gets annoyed whenever she forgets a word in English, describes people in their 40s as “old” and regularly smudges her mascara.
Hansen-Løve has Danish roots, although after years of living in France only the names in her family give that away. Like that of her brother, Sven, who in the 90-ties enjoyed tremendous success as DJ Sven Løve. Her new film, “Eden”, is partly about him. Only partly, because “Eden” is not a biopic in a traditional sense of the word – it is also a story about a generation defined by garage music. If “Inside Llewyn Davis” tells the story of a man who did not become Bob Dylan, one could say that “Eden” tells the story of people who did not become Daft Punk.
“Eden” openly references your brother’s career, he also co-wrote the script. Was he instrumental in getting the project off the ground?
Not exactly. What happened is pure coincidence. Somehow we both found ourselves in a similar place in out lives; I had already done 3 films dealing with grief and melancholy and it seemed like the end of some kind of inspiration. I just felt that I wanted to try something new. For me, “Eden” was like entering a new territory, at least in terms of how I make movies and get them financed. At the same time my brother was trying to get over his previous life. He was facing many of the problems you see in the film – he was broke, he was sad, he wanted to stop being a DJ. He wasn’t very well. It felt like we both arrived to a certain point in our lives, so we decided to make something out of it and to do it together.
Do you think it really helped him to get involved and through that kind of get it out of his system?
I think that it helped him to get over it and to reconnect with the world in a way. It could have been tough, after all it’s a film about failing, but I think he handled it very well. Until now. Sven was involved in every single stage of the production, from writing to financing and shooting, and I think that until now he has been keeping it at the distance because he was focusing on making the film, on making it happen. He never put any pressure on me, never tried to make himself look more like a hero or like a great artist and that helped me a lot, because I never felt that he was being influenced by some kind of narcissism. That allowed him to tell me about his memories without any censorship. Now the film’s done, it’s being shown and people write about his character in the film calling him a loser. Of course he is happy about the release [in France “Eden” came out in November] but only now he realizes what he has done. He needs to go back to his life – he is writing short stories now and wants to concentrate on that.
Your film is not just about Sven, it’s more like a portrait of a certain generation.
Few years ago I was watching Olivier Assayas’ film “Something in the Air” [director’s husband]. It’s a film about his generation and what it meant to be 17 in the 70-ties. I loved the film but apart from that it made me think of my own generation. I was trying to figure out what such film would be about – it wouldn’t be about politics or political involvement, because that was something we didn’t believe in anymore. Or not in this way, not like our parents. But there was still something powerful and strong that we believed in and I realized it was the music. That was the one thing we all had in common, my brother, me and a lot of my friends. That’s where the film came from.
Were you heavily involved in the club scene yourself?
I was, of course not in the same way as my brother, I didn’t know how to mix and I didn’t have his knowledge of garage music, although now after the film I became quite an expert myself (laughter). I knew all the songs by heart even before, because I have danced to them many times, but I didn’t know anything about the history of garage nor about all the technical aspects of it. Thanks to the fact that my brother was DJing in many of the important clubs my parents would not be afraid to let me go there – they thought that if it’s my brother’s party it’s going to be ok.
Do they still think that after seeing the film?
They still haven’t seen it (laughs). I started going out when I was 13 years old and that’s when it all started. At the time people were aware that they are part of something important, they felt defined by that music, even though it took a long time for garage to be taken seriously. In France at least. This rejection made this feeling even stronger. My brother decided very early on that this was his type of music, he was just so in love with it, even with the idealism of the lyrics. I think that the problem his character faces is his fidelity to the music, it’s also the problem of the music itself – garage is very particular and it never really evolved. It’s natural that at some point this music just stopped being fashionable. It has always been a small, underground environment, except for some songs that became famous. The very first paper that wrote about this music was called “Eden” – that gave the title to my film.
Do you think the obscurity of the music can become problematic for the viewers?
There might be people who will be expecting a story about French Touch and David Guetta, and instead they will get a film about a guy nobody remembers who played the most underground kind of electronic music. A week ago I showed the film to a friend of mine who is a film critic. He loved my previous films, but after seeing that one he called me and said – “listen, this film is really… sad.” I mean, there is sadness, there is failure, but he said that it’s sad because it’s about people whose lives are empty. It’s a film about people who love music, how can such life be empty? He didn’t understand the music and he couldn’t connect with it the way he does with free jazz. I mean, free jazz? You would think that nowadays people would have the humility to acknowledge the fact that even if they don’t like the music it has been important for a certain generation, but for some reason people still react very violently to it. I don’t think that anybody would say something like that about The Rolling Stones. When it comes to electronic music people either love it or hate it and when finally there is a film that takes it seriously they say it’s “sad”. This drives me really crazy.
It’s interesting, because after all your film is not that sad.
Actually that’s something that proved to be a problem as well. When I was trying to finance “Eden”, people thought it was too soft. They didn’t understand why I would want to make a film about nightclubs without showing the darker side to it – the violence, the drugs. I show it just the way it was and I’m not trying to make it more spectacular or more glamorous. It was a part of Sven’s life, but it wasn’t the most important thing about it. I wanted to make a film about this spirit, about this generation, but mostly about life. I wanted to make a film that would be universal, but for some people the music is such a big obstacle, that it makes it impossible for them to understand what it’s really about.
Why “Eden” is divided into 2 parts, Paradise Garage and Lost in Music?
When I was writing the screenplay I didn’t really know where I was going. I was writing and writing and suddenly I realized the film is going to last 4 hours (laughs). It was a nightmare – I think that “Carlos” [a 5-hour film by Olivier Assayas] was a very bad influence. It was such a great adventure and it was so exciting for Olivier that I guess I wanted to experience it too. I jumped into this and I decided it was going to be an epic about electronic music and that through my brother’s failure I can tell the story of my generation. I felt that I was depicting characters that has never been shown before. I was so excited about the project and somehow I managed to convince people to produce it – “Eden” was supposed to be divided into two parts and the idea was to release it in 2 different weeks. But then I went to state film commissions and that’s what killed the project – they thought that the film was a chronicle, that there was no story. Instead of seeing it as something that was interesting about it, they saw it as a weakness. After a year of struggling I found a producer who agreed to do it on a condition that it will last 2 hours. Originally, maybe I shouldn’t talk about it but it’s normal to have regrets, I was putting a lot of attention to where garage came from. I felt it was important to the story, but there just wasn’t enough space.
Given that it was so difficult to finance the film were you ever tempted to turn it into a success story and focus more on Daft Punk instead?
I never wanted to do that. It would make the project more commercial, but we didn’t want to exploit our relationship with them. My brother has known them for a very long time, they have been extremely encouraging and generous, but we didn’t want to make them feel like we are using their names to get attention. They read the script very early on and asked us only for one thing and what they said was exactly what we wanted to do – they wanted to be portrayed as as human beings, not icons. The fascination they provoke is so strong, that when we showed the film in Toronto a lot of people actually thought it was them in the film. If you think about it for 2 seconds you understand it’s not possible, they are like 40, 45 now – they are old! But they look pretty much the same. They spend their lives trying to hide and they would never expose themselves like that in the film. Even though they like us a lot and they have been extremely helpful, they would never show their faces. I think they enjoyed the fact that we were in a way contributing to the myth by creating this confusion. Do you know that the scene where the bouncer doesn’t want to let them in a club actually happened?
I heard it’s a real story and that the guy in your film is actually the one who did that.
Yes, he is the one who kicked them out. They fired him afterwards, he doesn’t work there anymore. People didn’t know their faces so they would be kicked out of the clubs all the time. What could they say, that they are Daft Punk? Nobody would buy it (laughs). When I was writing the screenplay I knew there are certain things and images I would like to use, like this poem The Rhythm by Robert Creeley. My brother gave me a collection of his poems few years ago and it seemed like this poem is about a film that I want to do. I had the same feeling with Within, a song by Daft Punk which we hear at the end. There is this line that says: “I’m lost, I can’t even remember my name” – it made me cry, because it was just so close to what I was trying to say about my brother. He was lost too.