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"My Only Plan Was To Party": Meet the DJ Who Inspired 'Eden'

Sven Hansen-Løve's youth of excess is at the center of the Daft Punk-featuring indie flick.

by Angus Harrison
Jul 22 2015, 2:45pm

The conversation around Eden keeps coming back to two words: Daft Punk. Yet despite Thomas and Guy-Man playing an important role in the both the film's story and soundtrack, they are largely part of the background. There is another DJ, one you probably haven't heard of, whose story is far more significant.

I'd seen the film around a week before I spoke to Sven Hansen-Løve, the brother of the film's director Mia Hansen-Løve, its screenwriter, consultant, and the inspiration for the movie's story. It wouldn't be completely fair to describe the movie as a "dreams don't come true" tale, but as a take on a DJ's career it is certainly grounded more in the reality of trying to balance ambitions with the toll of a 24 hour party lifestyle.

The film's protagonist, Paul, who is based on Sven, is working clubs and throwing parties during the rise of French touch and the emergence of Daft Punk, yet his trajectory follows a very different path, as his DJ duo Cheers experiences the highs and eventual lows of constant clubbing and hedonism.


Sven Hansen-Løve photographed by Andrew Kovalev.

"I ended up writing almost half of the script, and the fact it was mostly based on my life was very strange," Sven tells me over the phone. "Some of the things were real, some were invented, and there were some elements I didn't even realise I had invented — your memory can play tricks on you."

In placing his experiences of spinning records and partying on screen, Sven has essentially laid bare a period of his life typified by triumph and defeat in equal measure. As a result, many of the personal strokes in the story involve characters and events that play on some of his most delicate memories. "There were some things we had to change, involving friends or ex-girlfriends, I had to respect those people. But still, many people have got in touch to say they recognised themselves. One friend even started reminding me of things I had completely forgotten when we were writing it. I guess my memory isn't so good!"

The game of chasing memories, and re-inventing the past can be difficult, but Eden benefits from it hugely. The whirlwind of drugs and partying at the centre of the movie means that nights and days are constantly blurred into each other, allowing the film to present Sven's life in a similar way. "I feel there were two parts to my life, like the character. The first part was fun, the parties were really nice, but that time stopped. It's like I woke up one day and realised I'd gone through 8 years without noticing. Nothing had happened in that whole time." It seems that in the process of retelling the ups and downs of his DJing career, Sven was also required to evaluate an entire chunk of his life. "I do regret things," he tells me, "of course."

Yet the film has also been an opportunity for him to celebrate the sweeter side of his twenties, chiefly the music. "The great thing about the soundtrack was that we had a lot time. The film was pretty difficult to finance, so from the beginning of the project to the first day of shooting we had nearly a year. We started with a pretty huge list of almost 200 songs, and we worked by subtraction, until we only had 40 songs."

What may come as a surprise is that a film seemingly rooted in filter house barely contains any music of the genre on its soundtrack. Instead, the tracks that populate scenes are largely the music that Sven was playing in clubs, referred to in the movie as garage (think Paradise not Artful Dodger). The longs nights are coated in the soulful bounces of Levan, Hardy, and Knuckles. "France at that time had such an eclectic taste. I could DJ with people and hear some really hardcore techno and some garage on the same night. I think fell in love with garage because it was stranger in a way than the rest of the music. It was such a contrast."

Yet putting together an accompanying soundtrack provoked challenges itself. "The hard part was finding the people who had the rights, literally looking for artists who had completely disappeared!" Such is the world of dance music that one-off club hits often exist completely independently from the artists behind them, who can continue in relative anonymity. "Trying to find Rosie Gaines who had a hit with "Closer Than Close", was impossible. We couldn't find her! We almost had to hire a detective, following leads like 'I saw her in a small town, not far from here'. Many of the people from those days are doing something else now. They aren't in music anymore."

There's a funny sort of symmetry to Sven and Mia Hansen-Løve's struggle to track down artists who were once so wrapped up in the club culture of the 1990s, but have since receded into a life after the party — much like Sven. "I'm writing, and doing a masters in creative writing in France. My life is quiet but I'm happy, I just want to write." That being said, the journey to making Eden has, to an extent, re-enlivened his DJing career. "The film has helped with that! Although I don't drink when I work or party like before! I never really stopped, I just had to change my attitude."

The subject of attitude seems to be at the core of Sven's story, particularly when he talks about the successes of Daft Punk. "I think it is a question of how much ambition you have. In all honesty, I don't think I ever had as much ambition as them. To be successful you have to project yourself into the future. What will happen in five or ten years? They had a plan, and I had no plans at all. My only plan was to party, which was fun, but it became a problem."

Happily, Sven's friendship with Daft Punk has proven a fruitful and fitting element in Eden, with Thomas and Guy-Man offering the use of their music at an indie-film-friendly rate. Sven was keen to stress the significance of their role. "I don't think we could have made the film without Daft Punk's collaboration. They are friends and were very nice, Thomas has always been supportive of my writing. The fact that they helped us was a golden key."

Before our conversation ends, Sven considers his long friendship with the pair, and the twists of fate and decision that have led to their respective eventualities. "They are visionaries in my opinion. I get the feeling that even when they were 20 years old they knew what was going to happen. All the people around them had that feeling. They had the ambition, they wanted it, and they knew how to make it happen."

So what about what he wanted? I ask Sven whether or not he considers Eden a morality tale of sorts? A lesson in the importance of determination, foresight, and perseverance. He pauses for a second, "No. I don't think there is a lesson in it. It's just a story."

Eden hits cinemas this Friday (24th July). Found out more on Twitter.

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