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Interview: Félix de Givry on Mia Hansen-Løve’s ‘Eden’ and the Lost Paradise of Electronic Music

Félix de Givry on Mia Hansen-Løve's 'Eden' and the Lost Paradise of Electronic Music

Inspired and co-written by director Mia Hansen-Løve‘s brother, Sven Hansen-Løve,
Eden” serves to document the origins of the electronic music scene
in France, from which mega starts like Daft Punk emerged. This intimate
portrayal takes the frivolous image of the DJ and turns on its head to deliver
a casually elegant, humanistic, and musically intoxicating tale about the
trials and errors in one man’s life.

Carried by its start Félix de Givry, who plays a fictionalized
version of Sven, the story expands over a decade of heartbreak, drug abuse, disappointments,
and personal realizations that transform a boy who fell in love with the innovation
of underground tunes into a man who has to accept that a different path might
more suiting.

With only two feature films in his resume De Givry is
relatively a new face in the international scene, but he is certainly on the
rise and developing many more projects besides his acting career. His relationship
with both Mia and Sven influenced his performance profoundly and
that is reflected with sincerity on the screen.

Our conversation started like most discussing the
intricacies of making the film, and evolved
into a very enjoyable chat that reveal how much of film buff De Givry is and
his diverse interests within the industry.

Aguilar: This is a very sensitive portrayal of a DJ beyond what we might expect when we think of the profession these days. What was your approach to the character and to the movie in general?

Félix de Givry: I met Mia very early on in the process of making this movie. We met one and a half years before shooting and because the movie was so hard to finance we spent a lot of time together talking about it. The film was originally designed to be two features films or a four-hour film. She did it almost like “Carlos,” the Olivier Assayas film,  which is two parts. When I read the script it was a huge, huge project. During this time we talked about the character, but we also talked about so many different things that we became very close and so the approach to the character was very natural in a way. By the time we started shooting it was like we had already made the film together and it was just a matter of shooting it. Mia has such a subtle approach to everything. I always felt like I was in her hands, and that’s how the character is. He is someone who left his life in the hands of someone else and didn’t really decide over it.

Aguilar: Was it more difficult or touchy for both of you and Sven since it’s such a personal story inspired by his reality at some point?

Félix de Givry: We always felt there was a third person. There is this boundary between fiction and reality which is, for me, something vital. That’s how she feels she is able to survive. It’s like two mirrors looking at each other, which creates this sort of infinity. That’s why she keeps making films about things that surround her. Her next film is loosely based on her mom, “Father of My Children” was based on her previous producer. They are always about something close to her. There is a strange relationship between all of this and I think that also allows the film to be very sincere. Either you get it and get drawn into the film or you don’t get it and it won’t be a attractive film for you because there is not really a plot or a climax, but I think that’s what’s interesting. It would have been greater as a four-hour film. This film is a shrunken version of the four-hour film. “Boyhood” is three hours, imagine if “Boyhood” was one hour an a half. It wouldn’t have the same effect.

Aguilar: Did you learn anything about yourself by playing someone so complex?

Félix de Givry: it’s funny because I learned as much from the character’s life and the events in it as from the experience of making the movie. It’s not really about what mistakes to avoid or a particular event or love story – even though it is kind of scary not to be able to have a family, kids, and have many regrets -but it’s really about the overall experience. I also discovered that I have a passion for cinema and making this film made it grow even bigger. It made be more intellectually involved in movies, which was very important when making the film. The other thing I learned about was the connection between human beings, between Mia, her brother, and I. This is something not directly connected to the movie, but I leaned a lot about evolving in the middle of colorful characters and crazy people [Laughs]. Also because the movie was hard to finance there was a lot of pressure and financial issues. It was really an experience..

Aguilar: Seems like you were part of the film beyond just being the lead actor 

Félix de Givry: Yes,  I even helped the producer find some more money. [Laughs]

Aguilar: What was your experience with this type of music before the film? Did you ever DJ or was an entire new world for you?

Félix de Givry: I was a little bit more connected to electronic music than most people my age. I used to organized some parties in Paris, and so I had this sort of relationship with it, but not directly with the roots of electronic music or the beginning of it. I wasn’t really aware of what happened in the 90s because it’s not a very documented era. It was really underground. Traditional media was not talking about it, and there was no social media yet. It’s sort of strange because it happened I’m between the 80s and the 2000s. I think this underground scene of raves could only exist at that time. I can’t imagine it today. I went to a rave party in Paris a few weeks ago, which was illegal, but the next day I saw people posting pictures on Facebook. It’s not really secret anymore. 

Aguilar: Back then you had to actually go to the gig to hear the music, you couldn’t just download it. 

Félix de Givry: Exactly. Also, to create this music, which is different than now with the internet, you had to go and dig into stores and find the music. The DJ’s job was something different  back then. I learned all that for the movie. I had this intuition or this idea that it was different but I had to go deeper. When I was a teenager electronic music was already huge. It’s been huge for maybe the last 15 years or at least the last decade. I’m 22 so it was definitely very huge when I was a teenager. I was not aware that the French people that were involved in the beginning of electronic music were so few people.  In your subconscious you have this idea that it was always something big. But if you talk about it with Sven or his friends, they’ll tell you that it was about 100 people that were going to the same events and going to same record stores. Daft Punk were not international superstars, it was a little, little scene. I learned about this through making the movie.

Aguilar: What I gather from your  character is that he grows up with these group of people, and then some of them, like Daft Punk, blow up, but he never does. It seems like after several trials he has to regroup and look for something else. I wouldn’t say is about lost dreams but maybe there is some of that in it?

Félix de Givry: The thing is that I don’t think he really wanted it to happen. Like I said, there is this sort of boundary between real life and the film. There is this sort of difference between Sven and the character, but I think Sven’s real dream is to be a writer. His real dream wasn’t music, music came on his path and was something like a ready-to-eat cake that was in front of him. But now he is starting to get into his real dream of writing and being committed to write. I think if he went that much into music it was because it was easy at first. You earn money easily, it’s exciting, and you are in the middle of something great, but maybe it was the wrong path. I don’t think he is jealous of Daft Punk or that there is a rivalry, because he never wanted to be that big in music. For me the thing that illustrates that the most is that he never really produced music. You can be big as a DJ, but if you really want to be big, like all the big names from back then or now, you have to produce. These are people who have produced songs that became hits, and people are going to see them to the clubs because they know they are going to play the hits they produced. I think Sven was a witness of that era but not really an actor or a player in it. Now he is starting to get into his real path which is writing. The four-hour version of the movie delved even more into his writing. 

Aguilar: How does Mia work? Is there room for any improvisation in a film like this or does it all have to go by the script?

Félix de Givry: It’s a lot like it is on the script, but she is very open to suggestions. She really knows what she wants and she does a lot of takes, like in between 20 and 30 takes. This is also because is the first project that she didn’t shoot on film. It was like “Whoo! I can do as many takes as I want” [Laughs]. But even then it was still a bit limited because of a new law in France regarding  working overtime, so she was still kind of cut short by that. She was very precise, but at the same time, as I told you, we trusted each other so much that everything was always soft and gentle. We never really had a fight. The shooting was very physical, Mia and I were there every day. There were a lot of night shoots, and it was very tough as it took a few months to shoot. It was a tough film. I don’t know if you’ve ever met Mia, but she very skinny and sweet, you don’t know how she handles all that. She definitely knows what she wants, an it was a very pleasant experience, especially because we became very good friends through this process. Maybe we’ll make another film together.

Aguilar: What does the title “Eden” mean to you? I know it comes from the pamphlet that was distributed in this raves, but it really could encompass many elements of the film.

Félix de Givry: Eden is a lost paradise, for me that’s the most coherent meaning. I think it’s even funnier that it’s also the title of the pamphlet they created at that time while living it. The pamphlet is one of the only things that documents this time because there are interviews. Sven did interviews with Daft Punk. If you really read it – I’ve read all the issues thought there are only around 10 of them – you realize they were direct witnesses of what was happening. It’s kind of crazy that they called it “Eden” as if they already knew that it was a lost paradise, that it wouldn’t last. They predicted this lost paradise.

Aguilar: What are you doing next now that “Eden” is finally coming out here in the U.S? Does that open more doors?

Félix de Givry: In France I refused a lot of films because I only want to work on great films, and there are not that many great films. I’m taking to an American director and to an Israeli director about two indie films. I think that’s the type of films I want to do. I’m also doing two short films in October and November. But I also have my company in France with some friends, we have a music label, we are producing films, and we are creating a clothing line as well. We are very busy, the music label is doing quite well. We produce music videos and short films as well.

Aguilar: Seems very fitting that you were involved in music while being part of a film like this 

Félix de Givry: There is actually some of the music I’ve produced in the film. But we are also developing our first feature film by a French director who is a friend. I’m sort of in between right now. I want to act in other films but only if they are good. I became quite good friends with Josh Mond of BorderLine Films who directed “James White.” He works with Antonio Campos and Sean Durkin in this sort of collective way. I think they are very interesting. I would like to do what they do but in France. 

Aguilar: Would you like to direct? Is that part of your future plans?

Félix de Givry: Yes! [Laughs], I’m really in the middle of a time crisis right now between being a producer and an artist. I started to realize this in “Eden,” because I was so involved in the film. I was not a producer but it was almost like if I was also a producer. Then I thought to myself, “Yeah but I’m also considered talent, I’m not really on the producing side.” It’s all blurry in my head right now, I don’t know where I’m gonna go. I would love to do a film with the Coen brothers, as an actor that kind of a dream. Although I was kind of disappointment with their jury choices at Cannes.

Aguilar: Where you there?

Félix de Givry: I was at Cannes for two days for a Louis Garrel, a French actor who directed a film. The film is called “Les Deux Amis” it was part of the Critics’ Week. He is the son of Philippe Garrel. 

Aguilar: What was your favorite film at Cannes?

Félix de Givry: I didn’t see a lot but I saw “The Lobster” and I liked it. Have you seen it?

Aguilar: I haven’t but I really like his films. “Dogtooth” is fantastic.

Félix de Givry: It’s sort of absurd. We are producing a film in September that’s sort of like that,absurd reality, which is more real than surreal. The elements are assumed like a reality. I think there is an interesting approach there, whereas most absurd films are fantasies. I also saw Joachim Trier’s film “Louder Than Bombs,” I love his films.

Aguilar: It seems like a great number of international directors are making films in English

Félix de Givry: Yeah it’s kind of the trend, to be an indie Norwegian director and then you do a film with Jesse Eisenberg. All these directors have the same passion for the same American actors like Jesse Eisenberg. I know Mia really likes him, or Greta. Did you see or hear anything good about other films at Cannes?

Aguilar: I heard good things about “Son of Saul,” and I was surprised that the Jacques Audiard film “Dheepan” won. 

Félix de Givry: I was surprised too. The jury’s choices were strange. 

Aguilar: I mean he is a great director and he’d never won before, maybe that’s why.

Félix de Givry: He is a good director but he is not the greatest. 

Aguilar: Well he seems to be very well regarded in France, but maybe you’ll be at Cannes soon with a film.

Félix de Givry: I hope [Laughs]

“Eden” opens today in L.A.
at The Nuart
and in NYC at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and the IFC Center

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