Saturday, September 26, 2015

In short: Eden Log (2007)

A man (Clovis Cornillac) wakes up in a cavernous underground complex. He’s beaten and bruised, disoriented and amnesiac, and the darkness and strangeness of his surroundings don’t exactly help with any of these states either.

Slowly, he works his way outwards and upwards, on the way learning in bits and pieces what the hell is going on around him. Basically, he is in a giant underground factory harvesting energy from the roots of a gigantic tree, but something seems to have gone horribly wrong: mutants roam the caverns and corridors, and a paramilitary force has been sent down to not only fight the mutants but to suppress some kind of revolt among the place’s technicians. Worse still, something’s not right with our protagonist himself. He can neither trust his memories nor his perceptions; the only thing he knows is that he needs to travel upwards.

Franck Vestiel’s unfortunately until now only directing credit is quite the thing. Clearly made on a tight budget, Eden Log still manages to build a confusing, sometimes surreal world of its own out of monochromatic colours, darkness, and sets that all help give the film a disorienting feel. In a sense, the film’s approach to Science Fiction, the way the more hard science fictional parts and its visionary elements intersect, seems deeply French to me, reminding me of francophone comics in its eye for the disorienting (the future is a strange place at the best of times, after all) detail – like the mouth in a recording of a technician projected onto the mouth of its corpse while expositioning – and its willingness to not get bogged down in explanations. Ambiguity counts.

This doesn’t mean Eden Log doesn’t have any clear plot at all, for it very much follows a simple travelogue structure in which the protagonist learns about himself through the interaction with utter strangeness. It’s just the “utter strangeness” part that might throw people, particularly since the film’s more daring uses of Christian mythology paired with elements we know from survival horror and so on isn’t what you’d call an obvious pairing. Which, of course, is exactly one of the reasons for Eden Log’s quite hypnotic power. There’s nothing quite as riveting as the non-obvious consequently used.

The other reasons for the film’s power are the highly effective electronic score by Seppuku Paradigm that further emphasises the strangeness of our surroundings and provides Eden Log as a place an aural identity quite befitting its visual one; and Clovis Cornillac’s full body performance as our nameless protagonist, projecting vulnerability as well as violent craziness without much need for the few moments of dialogue he gets. Without this, the film’s protagonist might have become too much of an empty place at the film’s heart, but thanks to Cornillac, there’s a relatable humanity to a character that might just not be quite so human anymore at all.

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