Mia Hansen-Love was only a tween when her fourth feature, “Eden,” begins. An epic look at the club scene as viewed by a DJ (Felix de Givry), it covers 1992 to late 2013 — a period during which she did go out. More importantly, her brother, Sven, was a key DJ in the “French touch” movement, which birthed Daft Punk. Hansen-Love based her lead character on Sven, who cowrote the script. The result is a film so authentic that it doesn’t play like a typical club movie — which Hansen-Love (“The Father of My Children,” “Goodbye First Love”) had zero interest in making.
This isn’t shot like a club movie. The camerawork is naturalistic, whereas most movies on the subject like to edit to the fast beats and make it feel like the viewers are clubbing themselves.
I didn’t want to make a film about the club scene that would look like a club film. I’m not interested in that aesthetic. There are great films done this way, or great scenes in movies, where it’s editing with very short cuts. You see extras dancing in an exaggerated way and everyone’s enthusiastic. That for me doesn’t have anything to do with the reality of clubs. They have more to do with the conventions of cinema. I always try to make a cinema that is free. If we wanted to make a film about the club scene and the “French touch” movement, how would we tell it in a way that we say something true about it, and not make one more film that fulfils what everyone expects it to be? I’m sure people will be disappointed with the film because of that. I mean it, and I’m OK with it. It doesn’t give you some of the things you expect from this sort of film. It tries to look at it in a realistic way — though for me, realism has to do with poetry, but let’s say it has a realistic perspective. Ultimately I hope that will give the film a universality.
“Eden,” like the films of your husband, Olivier Assayas (recently of “Clouds of Sils Maria”), tend to use music as part of scenes, and tend to have characters and the camera ignore it.
I try to find my own rhythm. It’s very seductive to try and imitate the rhythm of songs, or to try and imitate the effects of drugs. But I think ultimately you can’t, or that you just wind up simulating other films. The difficulty — it was a very stimulating difficulty — was to find my own style, my own look that would be mine, and not try to copy someone who’s taking ecstasy.
This is a pretty hairy look at aging, and especially of aging out of a job and a passion you thought you’d be in for life.
His problem is he doesn’t feel time passing. At some point he wakes up and realizes 15 or 20 years have gone by. His tragedy is he doesn’t know how to grow up, as if he was stuck in his youth forever. He actually does age but he doesn’t feel it. My brother, he didn’t change so much over the years — which is strange, because if you live at night, you take drugs, you drink alcohol, you’d think you’d end up like a freak. But for him not at all. It seems like drugs and alcohol keep people young, when they don’t kill them. That’s what happened with my brother. I remember him getting totally depressed when people told him, “You look so young.” He’s seven years older than me and people keep asking about my younger brother. He really does look young. There was this scene in my film that I cut out at the end where he’s talking to this little girl on the beach, and she asks him how old he is. He says, “What do you think?” She says, “You look old.” He says, “I’m so glad you said that.”
You don’t use an excess of makeup to age actor Felix de Givry over the 20-plus years.
I did do things to make him age, but I think they’re so subtle people don’t notice. It took us a lot of work and thinking to find ways to make him change. But we didn’t use massive tricks. He gets a little fatter. In the second half he has a beard. The makeup is different, and the clothes. There are a lot of things, but they’re small and have more of a subliminal effect. I think the reason people are so surprised is they’re used to things that are so much more obvious that when we don’t use them it seems like something’s missing. But for me, I really have a problem with the way people make their characters age in the film. When it’s with special effects it doesn’t make me feel closer to the characters or to reality. It actually takes me out of the film. I can’t use it because it doesn’t work for me as a spectator. The only other way to do it is to do it like Richard Linklater and “Boyhood.” But I’m not passionate enough o do a film over 20 years. [Laughs]
You weren’t really of age when the movie begins to be going clubbing. How was it depicting a scene you were, for a time, too young to experience?
When it starts I was 11 or 12. The first tow years the film deals with I didn’t experience the scene. But I did start to go out quite early. My brother started a residency at this bar in Bastille that was a nightclub, but it was also a bar, so its hours were very early, like 9 and it closed at 2. It didn’t seem so scary to m y parents, so I could go out when I was very young. And because my brother was a DJ I could go anywhere. The period of my life when I went out the most was from 13 to 20. It wasn’t the same as my brother. I didn’t know the names of the artists or the definitions of the different styles of music. I don’t know how to be a DJ. But what I had was the time I spent with him living the music.
How much did you rely on the people involved with the scene for help?
A lot of people helped us. I’ve never felt as much support doing a film. A lot of people helped us out not only practically but morally. But it was a difficult film to finance. We were really struggling. We’d ask for money, and it was before “Random Access Memories” came out. People didn’t even know who Daft Punk were. I know, it’s hard to believe, but I’m telling you the truth.
I read you once had an even longer script.
I think it’s Olivier’s fault, because of “Carlos.” I love “Carlos” so much, and it’s so incredible he was able to make this film in three parts and it’s crazy how long it is. I guess it had a very bad influence on me. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I do my five hour film? I’m half-joking, because there is some influence from that. I couldn’t stop exploring this subject. And at the end I had this monster script, like four and a half hours. Impossible to finance. The company that made Lars Von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” were interested in it at one point. But we were missing so much money. We just had to make a shorter film.
I would love to see a four hour version of this.
If anybody — a producer, a crazy guy — wants to pay for the four-hour version, we are ready to film what’s missing. I really mean it.
Greta Gerwig has a small role here. She brings such an unusual energy to what is otherwise a very low-key, quiet film.
I’m a huge fan. I kind of identify with her. Everyone has this actor they’re connected to, and for me it’s Greta Gerwig. At first I didn’t dare think of her, because it was such a small part. But I couldn’t help myself. She moves me a lot. There’s something that always moves me a lot about her. I want to make a film with her. We’re talking about it.