Dalis reviews “Eden,” a film with a heartfelt critique on how pollution is making us sick. Eden narrates the story of Éva, a woman in her 30’s whose life takes a drastic turn when developing environmental allergies overnight, turning her life into one of unceasing lab experiments and isolation from the world.
Imagine waking up one day, getting ready, commuting to work, and dropping on your knees with a pain crushing your chest on the bus. You fall on an old lady while hyperventilating. Next thing you know, you are in a special care unit in which medical specialists run experiments on you. This is the story of Éva, played by Lana Baric, the protagonist of the Romanian/Hungarian production directed by Ágnes Kocsis. Eden premiered at the 49th edition of the International Film Festival in Rotterdam (IFFR), selected as part of the Big Screen Competition.
Kocsis’ filmography stretches from 2000 with several short films and three feature-length films selected by the IFFR. Fresh Air in 2007, Adrienn Pál in 2011, and Eden in 2020. In Eden, her directorial decisions reveal her eclectic but cohesive and touching style. By exploiting what can be transmitted appealing to the audience’s emotions by showing Éva’s vulnerability, the human element in this production is palpable throughout its entirety.
Imagine waking up one day, getting ready, commuting to work, and dropping on your knees with a pain crushing your chest on the bus. You fall on an old lady while hyperventilating. Next thing you know, you are in a special care unit in which medical specialists run experiments on you.
It all begins with András, played by Daan Stuyven, a Belgian singer who debuted as an actor in Eden. András’ first visits Éva after following a week-length protocol to not bring any allergens with him that could cause her a reaction. András is a psychiatrist hired by the pharmaceutical company who keeps custody of Éva, who lives a solitary and uneventful life in a sterile apartment. Her only contact with the rest of the world is her brother, Gyuri, played by Lóránt Bocskor-Salló, who prepares her meals and keeps her company every day. András receives pressure to write a report that favors the company by assuring psychological factors are the cause of Éva’s condition.
In András’ first visit, Éva is wary and resistant to talking to him. Gyuri is apprehensive to the extent of standing in the room while they are in session. After Éva asks Gyuri to exit the room and from the first encounter the two men had, it is implicit András makes him feel threatened. András leaves after explaining to Eva how they will work, which is followed by Éva dropping to the floor while hyperventilating in agony, most likely provoked by an allergen brought in by András. Éva’s resistance to talking to András does not wear off quickly. Still, after a couple of sessions, she finds use in talking to him about her emotions and nostalgia.
Kocsis delivers a poignant portrait of a woman who is reminded about her disconnection to the world and others every day
On the other hand, András’ is a middle-aged psychiatrist who drinks wine at night to help himself fall asleep and has a young daughter with whom he is trying to fortify his bond. András quickly becomes fascinated with Éva’s case and realizes that the company that hired him is onto something by insisting psychological factors cause Éva’s hypersensitivity. In the meantime, Éva experiences numerous changes within herself due to her new treatment. Her case is taken to court, where health ministers, watchdogs, and activists insist air pollutants cause her condition.
Kocsis said in an interview during the IFFR that Éva’s condition is a metaphor for the many elements from the modern world that cause inexplicable somatization. Although Éva is allergic to magnetic fields, radiation, electric waves, and has to go outside using an astronaut suit, the film smartly evokes the vulnerability that conveys being dependent on technology and human-made creations.
Through a brilliant color and photography selection, Kocsis delivers a poignant portrait of a woman who is reminded about her disconnection from the world and others every day. However, András’ arrival into Éva’s life may be more consequential than expected.
Eden has been screened in Hungary throughout 2019 and will be distributed overseas by the Hungarian Film Fund in the present year.
Cover courtesy from Ágnes Kocsis and IFFR.
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