I have always had a love for the Eiffel Tower.
I’ve never been there and 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 from my love of 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 open, we find ourselves being able to watch director Martin Bourboulon’s version of the story.
The film follows the life of Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris), 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), but he was soon to learn that while the bourgeois loved his work, he was not accepted as one of them. When his relationship with Adrienne was exposed, her family took her away from him.
Years later, Eiffel is a widower spurred on by his eldest daughter, Claire (Armande Boulanger), 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, however, she is married to one of Eiffel’s university friends, influential journalist Antoine de Restac (Pierre Deladonchamps).
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 sensational screenplay. Her script allows Eiffel to be part historical biopic and part sweeping love story, that quickly captivates its audience.
Although romance does play a big part of the story, this is a film that never finds itself falling into any typical Hollywood tropes. Instead, it takes on a much more alternative European cinematic feel that lifts Eiffel to a special place. Of course, nobody portrays romance and passion on-screen like the French do, so it is no surprise that this film is far superior to many others in its department. What did surprise me though, is how the story of Eiffel and his epic masterpiece played out.
Martin Bourboulon expertly guides through telling two stories from different parts of Eiffel’s life. Often films that attempt this style of storytelling can end up feeling clunky, but this is certainly not the case here. Bourboulon does it so well, that the result is a film which runs fluently, beautifully, while portraying human emotion brilliantly on the big screen. The film effortlessly portrays the despair and sadness that litters Eiffel’s life, and it is impossible to not be emotionally drawn into the film.
From sweeping love scenes through to moments of depression and despair Roman Duris as Eiffel shines across all elements of the film and puts on an incredibly 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 French film that needs to be viewed on the big screen in order to capture its true magic. I promise you, its sensational and important story will forever change the way you view the Eiffel Tower.