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Eden Log (Franck Vestiel, 2007)


      Pitched between serious hard sci-fi and a mindless creature feature, Franck Vestielís Eden Log is mostly distinguished by its willingness to immerse its audience in its plot midstream and let them puzzle things out for themselves. The movie opens as the amnesiac protagonist pulls himself out of a primordial soup into what appears to be a hollowed-out, run-down biosphere. At first itís not only difficult to tell who this man is, itís uncertain whether this alien environment is located on earth or not. This fundamental lack of direction keys viewers into much of the experience that will follow while watching Eden Log. Disorienting for an extended period, the movie plays a head game with the audience, making its simple plot feel more substantial than it is in reality. Decidedly not very eerie or awe-inspiring, the film is mostly purposefully confusing and mysterious. After a while, arriving at explanations ceases to matter. The sensation of wading through a palpable atmospheric haze is what defines this movie. For the viewer, then, this is less gripping than absorbing, and it must be noted that understatement is not the norm in either the horror or science fiction genres. Eden Log may be a mindfuck, but itís a decidedly detached one.

     Eden Logís obscure nature is reflected in several key stylistic choices. The spacey, Eno-inspired score is cleverly revealed to be diagetic music midway through the film. The script delivers the much of the narrative elusively, through video logs and pre-recorded security camera footage. For much of its runtime, it remains a wordless experience (it was filmed simultaneously in French and English, and itís quite obvious that a few scenes use post-production dubbing). For those familiar with modern videogames, many of these tropes will be familiar. The presence of mutants and anonymous government thugs running around, the inclusion of a nearly mute protagonist, whoís less a character than a computer gamerís avatar, and the narrative structure, which unfolds as he makes his way down through a series levels down toward a secret finale, will resonate with those who have played action adventure games.

     Though the architectural design of the Eden Log station, where the film is set, recalls H.R. Gigerís work from Alien, the dominant influence in Eden Log seems to be not science fiction genre, but instead German expressionism. The visuals present a constant contrast between bright floodlights and dark shadows. The sets feature ladders that ominously lead to nowhere and hallways that twist into oblivion. Itís a striking look that sees the color desaturated from the frame until images almost appear monochromatic. Some of these sets feel uncannily like art installations, using projected video to expand their small space. This at once maximizes what must have been a small budget for a science-fiction feature and lends a homemade quality to the film. Whether this is all meant to serve as a demo reel for the directorís future employment as a creator of big-budget action blockbusters or as his expression of personal obsessions a la Shinya Tsukamotoís Tetsuo films is anyoneís guess. Either way, Eden Log does seem to announce Vestiel as a filmmaker worth keeping an eye on.

50

Jeremy Heilman

08.25.08