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Eden 2008/07/19

Posted by Daddy Dave in Movies, Reviews.
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[Picture of Eden movie poster]Married with children means that is difficult to get to the GFT, or indeed any cinema, so we had to wait a couple of years to rent the DVD of “Eden”.

We watched it tonight, and thoroughly enjoyed it. You know, it was really nice to see a German film that was not art-housey pastiche film-noire, or out-and-out weird. This film was more Scandinavian or French in flavour. It most certainly could never be made into an Hollywood or even British version!

Now, the fact is that I have a soft-spot for foodie movies. For me (and probably zillions of others), it started with Albert Finney and that chicken in “Tom Jones”! I relished the food scenes. Later, I loved “Babette’s Feast”, “Chocolat”, and “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman”.

I would still like to see “Tortilla Soup”, “Like Water for Chocolate”, “Big Night”, “Vatel” with GĂ©rard Depardieu, and “Mostly Martha” — but back to “Eden”…

Overall, I thought Michael Hofmann did a good job of directing; the food and the almost constant rain! The fat chef was played by Josef Ostendorf, and he did an excellent job in that role; he has the girth, and the hands/ gestures/ chef-techniques. He’s at his most animated while cooking; he talks to the food, to the dead animals he’s preparing, but out of the kitchen, he has a face that says nothing or everything, and the result is an enigmatic and well-judged performance overall. He acts no more than is required for the viewer to impose their own selves on the character and situation.

I think it is an extremely difficult role; a passion for food is blended with the chef’s upbringing — and it seems that there are medical reasons why the man cannot have a romance with a woman. One is led to think that passions are redirected to the art of cooking instead — but has he fallen in love with the waitress?

There is a truth in that. I can think of a great many examples of men who have no girlfriends, friends, family or wives, and who are therefore able to throw themselves wholeheartedly into their passions for the likes of mathematics, computers and so forth. They have no distractions nor dependants, and it is always interesting to see what would happen if they got a girl, or if they somehow became “cool”. So the story of the fat chef rang true in “Eden”, but I am not convinced that the girl was quite “right”.

This waitress was married, and had a disabled child. The role was played by rude and crude German pop TV presenter, Charlotte Roche. It was excellent casting in that Roche is “plain” — and that would be true to the character of the fat chef… a good-looking girl would not have been plausible for this tale; we needed an ordinary-looking person. The only weird thing was the disabled daughter — what was the point of all that?

The plot dynamic was down to the waitress’s husband — without him, there would be no film/ plot. Devid Striesow played “Xaver” very well indeed. It would be foolish to jump to the conclusion that Xaver was the “baddy”.

The trouble was that Xaver found his wife’s new dinners delicious, that he actually sneaked into the restaurant and had his mind blown by the chef’s food — he even gave him a round of applause! He begged the fat chef to leave his family alone — and he used a motorbike to make a giant love-heart in tyre marks on the road for his wife. Hey — the guy even went against his own parents to be with this plain waitress and her disabled kid, to work a lowly job (teaching dance to pensioners) and forget his dreams of being a lawyer. How could we HATE him?

The film’s name – “Eden” — is what it is all about. Eden is the name of the waitress, but it is also taken to mean “heaven on Earth” — which is what the chef’s food was described as, and it brings to mind ideas about “forbidden fruit” and consequences.

Eden manipulated the husband and the chef. She had no intention of leaving her husband, but she also had no intention of leaving the fat chef’s food either! The fat chef had never had female interest before and so was beguiled — but unable to do anything other than cook. The husband was sensitive and prickly about failing as a lawyer, having a disabled kid and generally about how he is perceived about town.

She was thoughtless of others an completely selfish!

Xaver, her husband, did not know the medical reasons why they might not have an affair, he did not know he had ruined the chef by smashing the wine. He was simply fighting for what little dignity he had left, for his wife and family (which had cost him dearly to-date), he did not intend for anything other than for them to be left alone — he wanted to chase the fat chef out of town, and even to fight with him to teach him a lesson.

It is “forbidden fruit” to have friendships with men when you are married. Everyone knows that women are attracted to men for their wealth, skills, mind, and so on — least of all for their looks. Eden did not invite her husband along at any time, even though he loved good food. It was her personal selfish treat — and her response to his night out with the boys.

In the end, there was a sort-of duel — of honour, and the triangle got squared again.

As a result of a plain-looking woman, everyone’s lives had changed immeasurably, including a genius’s. The funny thing about this film was that, despite being the linchpin of the whole shebang, Eden didn’t really have to be a well-acted role. Despite being the title role, the part — really — was a supporting one, and while Striesow was excellent, the film was Ostendorf’s through and through.

Our conclusion is that this is a good film, a traditional tragedy, but with lots of German colouring and foody stuff! Worth watching if you like that sort of thing.

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