TIFF Review: EDEN LOG
[This review originally appeared as part of my ongoing festival coverage at Showcase. Thanks to the mighty Goat-Boy for letting us reprint it here.]
Talk about an odd choice for the Midnight Madness program. Sure, Eden Log's got genre cred to spare - it's a scifi flick with a heavy creature element, the first directorial effort from a man with AD credits on a ludicrous list of the best French genre films of the past few years - but programmer Colin Geddes generally tries to keep the Midnight lineup on the high-energy end of the spectrum. After all, it's a lot easier to stay up to 2 am if you've got a movie that kicks your ass a bit from time to time to give an extra bit of adrenaline. And whatever else Eden Log may be, high energy it aint.
A dark, philosophical spin on the Garden of Eden, Eden Log opens with a man gaining consciousness at the bottom of a mysterious cave. He's coated with mud and has no idea who he is, where his is or how he got there. We follow as he explores his surroundings, eventually finding his way to an abandoned underground settlement - it could be a research station, it could be some sort of socially engineered utopia, we're never quite sure.
This is Eden Log and whoever lived there originally, they're gone now. The lights have gone out, the machinery has gone quiet, the only signs of life the far off snarls of hostile creatures and the carnivorous tree roots that seem to have infiltrated the whole place.There is nothing for our hero to do but try to find his way to the surface.
Ignore the trailers that sell this as a sort of post modern Alien, with our hero fighting his way through a futuristic landscape while battling barely seen creatures. Eden Log is all about the world itself, all about the atmosphere, all about sharing the hero's journey as he slowly pieces together fragments of what is happening around him. Like the hero the audience arrives completely lost and disoriented and must explore the world that director Franck Vestiel has created. It's meant to be an immersive experience more than a narrative and on that level what Vestiel has accomplished is truly remarkable, particularly when you consider just how limited his resources were. This is a totally convincing future world, impeccably designed and captured by Vestiel.
The most philosophically minded of the films in the Midnight Madness lineup Eden Log will rival Martyrs as the films that most sharply split the audience, though they will do so for entirely different reasons. Those who land on the negative side with Eden Log are going to hate it and the dreaded 'pretentious' label will no doubt be applied. For those willing to simply ride the experience, however, Eden Log should pay off handsomely.