Film Review: Eiffel
Director: Martin Bourboulon
Cast: Romain Duris, Emma Mackey, Pierre Deladonchamps, Alexandre Steiger, Armande Boulanger, Bruno Raffaelli
Running Time: 109
Australian Distributor: Studio Canal
I have always had a love for the Eiffel Tower. I’ve never been there, but I do hope to change that one day, but I have always been inexplicably drawn to it. As I write this one whole wall of my lounge-room is filled with a large photography canvas of the famous structure while another canvas depicting the tower is proudly on display in my hallway.
I’ve never really been able to pinpoint where my obsession with the tower started, perhaps it is because of my love for French cinema and literature or perhaps it’s because while I was at university my lecturers were very quick to label me a bohemian with my own writing.
Years ago I heard that director Luc Beeson was bringing the story of how the Eiffel Tower came into being to the big screen, but the project never eventuated. I thought it was shelved and would never see the light of day but now suddenly with Australian cinemas back open after lockdown we find ourselves being able to watch director Martin Bourboulon’s (Daddy & Mommy) version of the story.
The film follows the life of Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris –Heartbreaker) the man responsible for building Paris’ most iconic landmark. The film shows the young engineer starting his career by creating a new way to build bridges that changed engineering forever. Also setting him apart from others in the French construction industry at the time was the fact that he cared for his workers and wanted to do whatever he could to save lives on building sites.
While this was happening he began a relationship with the daughter of a rich family, Adrienne Bourges (Emma Mackey – Sex Education), but he was soon to learn that while the bourgeois loved his work he was not accepted as one of them and when his relationship with Adrienne was exposed her family took her away from him.
Years later Eiffel is a widower spurred on my his eldest daughter, Claire (Armande Boulanger – Portrait Of A Lady On Fire), he has just designed and built the Statue Of Liberty and has now been asked to design ‘something special’ for the World Trade Fair coming to Paris. As he begins work on his design Adrienne suddenly comes back into his life but she is married to one of Eiffel’s university friends, influential journalist Antoine de Restac (Pierre Deladonchamps – Stranger By The Lake).
There is no other way to describe Eiffel than as a beautiful film. The story of Eiffel himself is brought to the big screen from Caroline Bongrand’s (Speak About Love) sensational screenplay. Her script allows Eiffel to be part historical biopic and part a sweeping love story that quickly captivates its audience.
While romance plays a big part of the story at hand this is a film that never finds itself falling into any Hollywood tropes instead it takes on much more of an alternative European cinema feel that lifts this film to a pretty special place. Of course, nobody quite portrays romance and passion on the screen quite like the French so it is no surprise that the film is far superior to many others in that department. What did surprise me though is how the story of Eiffel and his epic masterpiece played out though.
Martin Bourboulon expertly guides this film through telling two stories from different parts of Eiffel’s life. Often films that try to do that can end up feeling clunky but that is certainly not the case here. Bourboulon does it well and the result is a film that runs fluently while portraying human emotion brilliantly well on the screen. The film brilliantly portrays the despair and sadness that litters Eiffel’s life and it is impossible as a viewer not to find yourself being emotionally drawn into the film. The result is something quite magical.
That emotion also shines through the portrayal of Eiffel by Romain Duris. Duris totally becomes Eiffel and his performance depicts that. From sweeping love scenes through to moments of depression and despair Duris shines across all elements of the film and puts in a beautifully powerful performance. He is also well supported by Emma Mackey who announces herself as a star of the future in a role that also sees her having to reach for some dramatic heights and depths of emotion.
Eiffel is a truly beautiful film that needs to be viewed on the big screen in order to capture its true magic. It is a sensational and important story that will forever change the way you view the Eiffel Tower.
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