Within the first 5 minutes of Eden Log, you’ll realize you’re in for something completely different. Not afraid to make the viewer just as confused and disoriented as the man who has just woke up submerged in mud inside of a cavernous dungeon, first-time feature director Franck Vestiel has designed an opening sequence that will test his audiences mettle. A blinking light, total blackness, guttural howls, and a sense of utter bewilderment is how you’ll be introduced to the world and main character of Eden Log, and if you don’t find yourself reaching for the remote, a frightening vision of a desperate dystopian future awaits.
To give away too much of the plot would do Eden Log a disservice, as the sense of mystery and discovery is what drives the film forward. After the man emerges from the darkness in which he awakened, he finds himself in a place that isn’t much better, made up of winding corridors, huge industrial fans, and bizarre vines and roots at every turn. To add to his confusion, he’s greeted by a holographic recording congratulating him for making it as far as he has, and that due to his perseverance, “Eden Log” has given him a passport to become a member of their society. What this means, he doesn’t have a clue, and a tortured, dying man entangled in vines that he encounters shortly thereafter has no answers either, speaking cryptically about paradise being a lie and warning the man to turn back. The man doesn’t heed the suggestion and soldiers on, while the sound of growls and snarls envelops the corridors around him. After stumbling across a group of uniformed men hunting for someone, the man believes it may be him that they’re after. But why? And who is he and what alien world has he awoken into?
Eden Log is a challenging film to say the least. Reminiscent of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo, the film demands viewers to expend some brain-power if they’re to get the most out of what it offers. It’s easy to get hooked in though, as the mystery unraveling before you is gripping and you’re likely to find yourself rooting for the protagonist to find the answers he’s looking for. For the viewer though, getting answers will take a little work on your behalf. It’s extremely rewarding however and well worth the effort.
The visuals, from the set-designs, lighting, framing, and muted color palate are nothing short of impressive, especially when taking into account the budget the filmmakers had to work with. For one, the washed-out and nearly black-and-white color design gives the film a dirty and gritty feel that works wonders for the atmosphere. Some of the directorial choices are excellent as well, such as one scene where the protagonist finds himself trapped inside of a translucent cube-like container, and in an attempt to escape begins to rock back and forth. The camera is hard-mounted inside of the structure, and you can see the background swinging back and forth in front of you to the point of nausea if you’re watching on a big enough screen, creating an experience much like the man himself must be going through, which definitely seems to be one of the main goals of the film.
I don’t know how they managed to create such a sprawling, visionary world within such a small-scale film, but everyone involved should be commended for their work. You’ll never find yourself doubting the realness of the universe, looking at things as just a set in a movie; the crew has created a highly plausible living, breathing fantasy. There’s also a real feel of dread and danger around every corner…maybe it’s because I’ve just recently played the game, but I got the same feelings occasionally while watching Eden Log as I did while playing Dead Space. The only real misstep in the film is in the finale, which features some questionable use of CGI. This is about the only time where you’ll be snapped back to reality, which is a shame considering how effective everything else is. Still, I was so enthralled by the end that it didn’t affect things too negatively.
Also worth noting is the amazing soundtrack from Seppuku Paradigm, who also provided the soundtrack to the recently released Martyrs. While I didn’t really take note of their work while watching that film (I was probably too in shock with what I was witnessing), I was immediately drawn to their work in Eden Log. It’s ethereal and evocative, and fits the mood of the film perfectly. I haven’t searched out a soundtrack of a film for years, but I did so here. Lucky for me and all of you as well, Seppuku Paradigm is offering a free download of their score of the film here.
Eden Log will unquestionably divide audiences, and I don’t there will be many out there that straddle the line in between. I can pretty much guarantee there will be a sect that loathes it and may even toss around the “pretentious” tag, but I personally think it’s anything but. If you have an open mind and are in the market for a wildly inventive cyberpunk-influenced sci-fi film, Eden Log may just be the experimental showpiece you’ve been looking for.
The fifth of six films from Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing’s Six Shooter Film Series, Eden Log is presented on DVD in 1.85 anamorphic widescreen. Outside of the disappointment of the encode not being progressive, the transfer looks quite nice, especially with how dark the film is. The 5.1 surround sound is fantastic and does a great job of immersing you in the world of the film. The sole extra on the film, if you can call it that, is the French version of the film, which is basically the same film except has the actors speaking in French instead of English (and it’s the version I watched). It’s a real disappointment the release is void of a commentary or a behind the scenes featurette, as I would have loved to have seen what went into creating the world of Eden Log on such a slim budget. The film itself is so engrossing though that this release is definitely worth a look.
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