REVIEW / FILM OPINION – With “Eiffel”, Martin Bourboulon attacks the myth of the inescapable monument and the man who led the project. The director and his actors, Romain Duris and Emma Mackey, take charge of a realistic reconstruction of the site as well as a love story that borrows from fiction. For a result that is both attractive and mixed.
Eiffel : French cinema put to the test of the monumental
If the name doesn’t mean much to you, it’s time to make up for it, as the French film industry has made a bet that Martin Bourboulon will be a top-notch director for years to come. Indeed, if he presents today Eiffel, both biopic, fictional love story and historical reconstruction of the erection of the Eiffel Tower, he will then be at the helm of the two films The Musketeers, Milady and D’Artagnan. A two-volume super-production, with a flamboyant cast. If the subject is today Eiffel, and that one will stick to it, difficult however to ignore that the sequence of the realizer concerns monuments of the French culture, a monument in the strict sense and a flagship work of literature. After Mom or dad 2, successful sequel to a first comedy performed with Laurent Lafitte and Marina Foïs, let’s start with the first of Martin Bourboulon’s great works: Eiffel.
A present of reconstruction and a past of melodrama
The stake of the film Eiffel must have seemed as high as the top of the famous tower. To tell about one of the most visited monuments in the world, symbol of Paris and France, it was necessary to get out of the big game. Eiffel takes place over two different temporalities. There is the present of the story, the one where the engineer Gustave Eiffel, recognized by all, undertakes to build the Eiffel Tower for the Universal Exhibition of Paris of 1889.
His motivation is professional, for innovation and prestige. But it is also, perhaps above all, personal. This is what we discover in the other temporality of the story, that of the meeting and a dazzling passion with Adrienne Bourgès, while he is 28 years old and she 18. While a marriage is being prepared, it is outright annulled. Almost thirty years later, in Paris, the two youthful lovers meet again.
Why, when he was against it to promote the construction of the metro, does Gustave Eiffel suddenly change his mind to build this tower, taller than all the others? The film leaves no mystery, suggesting that this desire arises from the engineer’s reunion with his great love of youth, although the latter is married to Antoine Restac (Pierre Deladonchamps), a very influential journalist and close friend of Eiffel. If Adrienne Bourgès really existed, the romance of the film is largely invented. Eiffel thus seeks its balance between the realistic historical biopic and a fictitious love drama.
A beautiful building lacking a home
A fake biopic and a real reconstruction? Hard to say, but even if the film wants to see as far as the monument is tall, it remains a feature film and in that regard its reconstruction of the tower construction is brilliant. From the drawing of the plans to the installation of the final rivets, from the enthusiasm of the authorities to the dissatisfaction of the residents of the site, standing on the first floor like feet in the water to anchor the tower on soft ground, we see many of the different stages of the construction of the Eiffel Tower. In terms of sets as well as costumes, it is a ballet removed from the industrial population of the 19th century, the workers and the bourgeois, nicely orchestrated by Martin Bourboulon and set to music by Alexandre Desplat. We note the constant academicism of the gesture, without it becoming boring.
The boredom would rather come from the love part of the film. Emma Mackey is valiant and determined, but her character does not always convince. The interpreter has nothing to do with it, you have to look more closely at the narration which heavily interweaves the two times and above all which only fully reveals the character in the last part of the film. So we have the impression of finally discovering it and understanding it when we have to leave it. So, when one is only half developed for a long time in front of the very experienced and charismatic Romain Duris in the role of Gustave Eiffel, often put in majesty in Eiffel, difficult to exist.
Very good intentions that do not come true
It’s a shame, there is something decidedly beautiful and interesting in Caroline Bongrand’s screenplay. Love, desire, the conquest of the loved one … But Eiffel and its scenario are sorely lacking in maturity by not daring to question the phallic dimension of the building, by not seeking …