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Eden Log
cast: Clovis Cornillac, Gabriella Wright, Vimala Pons, and Zohar Wexler

director: Franck Vestiel

98 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
Viewers have the option of watching this film in dubbed English or in the original French, although it will be a while before it becomes clear which version is being shown. Clovis Cornillac is, we eventually learn, Tolbiac. He slowly emerges from mud to find himself in underground tunnels and the film follows him as he tries to get to the surface. He has amnesia, so he is no wiser than the viewer concerning the situation. The film is a puzzle, much in the manner of Cube, although it has the feel of Tarkovsky's Stalker (if Stalker had been designed by H.R. Giger).

It gradually becomes apparent that we are in an underground industrial plant that has been built around the roots of a massive new type of tree. It quickly becomes obvious, however, that something has gone wrong and although the tree seems to be thriving, the manmade structure has fallen into decay. The very term 'plant' is ambiguous here, so it will be avoided in the review despite its frequent use in the film. There is a picaresque element to Tolbiac's travel as he runs across people and computers that add elements to the greater picture. The computers merely play stored recordings, projected as holograms, but the people, for the most part, are dead or mutated. The workers, it transpires, have all been turned into mindless monsters by the tree and, when not attacking Tolbiac on sight, they are constantly striving to get to the surface. Guards from the surface attempt to stop them. The people who were caught in between are mostly dead or dying. Why Tolbiac appears to be unaffected is a mystery. At one stage Tolbiac runs across another unaffected person, the botanist (Gabriella Wright), who has managed to preserve her health by staying in an environment suit. The clues start to add up.

The film does make sense at the end, although it takes its time about getting there. It feels like it was adapted from a short story from a 1980s' edition of Interzone, which, in other words, means that it is a great idea that has been spread too thinly for a film. It has been said that a novella is the ideal length for a film adaptation, but I digress. As far as I know, this is an original script. Colour is largely absent from Eden Log, leaving a gloss and matt palate of greys and blacks to wash over the screen. It could have been irritating, but it is impressively done and it is a visually striking experience.

Some of the spoken English feels wrong and so the French version is the one that I prefer to watch. There is also a half hour making-of documentary and a trailer.

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