- Title: Eden Log
- Year: 2007
- Rating: R
- Running Time: 102 mins
- Director: Frank Vestiel
- Writer(s): Frank Vestiel, Pierre Bordage
- Cast: Clovis Cornillac, Vimala Pons, Zohar Wexler, Sifan Shao, Arben Bajraktaraj, Tony Amoni, Gabriella Wright, Abdelkader Dahou, Antonin Bastian, Joachim Staaf, Benjamin Baroche
From the start, french sci-fi film Eden Log is a puzzle. Our protagonist (let’s just call him The Man) wakes up in a puddle of mud deep underground, in an almost lightless world, and he knows nothing of who or where he is. He finds a flashlight on a corpse, climbs upward through a rubble-strewn passageway, and is confronted by a recording of holographic heads that seem to suggest he is some kind of technician. He makes his way through a locked gate, studies some diagrams on the wall, passes another gate, finds some cast-off clothing and moves ever onward through a strange underground complex. He doesn’t speak until he finds another man, somehow rooted to a wall in a kind of crucifixion, raving about the end of the world above.
Eden Log takes a slow, atmospheric start and, with a few exceptions, manages to ratchet up the tension and action as more and more pieces of the mystery of the movie are revealed. The very earliest scenes have a art-film minimalist quality, and the washed-out, almost grayscale look gradually fills with more color as the action becomes more intense and the viewer starts to have a better idea of just what is going on. It’s a great visual signature to a film that is all about evoking an atmosphere of otherness and mystery.
And it’s the mystery of Eden Log that makes it difficult to review without spoiling — it really is more enjoyable the less you know. I will say that the early scenes of solitude and blackness set up the later scenes quite well, as the world becomes more and more complicated, and The Man encounters both allies and enemies. Add in the strange presence of a scientifically-engineered plant that may be the true purpose of the place, and the film takes a trajectory reminiscent of New Wave science fiction and the classic sci fi films of the seventies, and it gives a great twist at the end when the central mystery of the film is discovered.
Eden Log does demand patience of the viewer, and I felt it was a tad overlong toward the end. Strangely, it wasn’t the slower build-up scenes that felt as if they overstayed their welcome, but some of the later parts that, despite containing more action, felt as if the film was spinning its wheels. That, coupled with the film’s tendency to be a bit too deliberately vague at times (The Man encounters someone who could easily spell everything out for him — only for her to drag out a partial explanation over time), can wear a little thin.
But what Eden Log excels at is crafting a distinctive visual atmosphere, and really holding the viewer’s interest and teasing out the clues of a puzzle that is, in the end, completely satisfying. Cerebral and aesthetically rich, it’s the kind of thing you watch alone, in the dark, when you are in the mood for complete immersion, languid pacing, and a film that demands your full attention.