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aka - Eden à l'Ouest
France/Greece/Italy 2009
Directed by
110 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Eden Is West

Elias (Ricardo Scamarcio) is an illegal immigrant headed for Europe from an unknown country. His boat is raided by police and he jumps overboard and so begins his odyssey across Europe as he doggedly heads to Paris.

Watching Eden is West two thoughts came repeatedly to my mind.  One was how much the film resembled Lina Wertmüller’s 1976 classic,Seven Beauties, only in reverse (Costas-Gavras is a contemporary of Wertmüller and as they were leading political film-makers of the time would no doubt be familiar with her work). The other was "has its 76 year old director gone soft in the head?"

If Wertmüller’s film was a blackly comedic portrait of an individual spiraling downward as a result of his own shallowness, Costa-Gavras film is a sun-lit story of a Teflon hero who blithely survives the many ups and downs of his adventures with little more impact than changes to his wardrobe.

It would seem that the film is intended as a kind of magic realist allegory of human optimism and endurance but from the very opening gambit (also the longest single sequence of the film) when Elias is washed up in a luxury holiday resort with its own well-attended nudist beach there is a superficiality to the director’s story (he is also credited as co-writer) that undermines any kind of sympathy with his picaresque protagonist.

Aside from the credibility ot otherwise of the actual narrative choices and strategies, the fundamental problem is that Scamarcio has an androgynous sex appeal and animal cunning (in this respect one thinks of another of the director’s contemporaries, Pier Paolo Pasolini), which Costa-Gavras exploits throughout the film. If Elias is intended to represent the immigrant Everyman this kind of heaven-sent gift seems little short of insulting to real boat people. Roberto Begnini tried an inverted take on the Holocaust with Life is Beautiful (1997) but he earned our respect for his apparent perversity in a way that Costa-Gavras does not.




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