Pitched between serious hard sci-fi and a mindless creature feature, Franck Vestiel’s Eden Log is mostly distinguished by its willingness to immerse its audience in its plot midstream and let them puzzle things out for themselves. The movie opens as the amnesiac protagonist pulls himself out of a primordial soup into what appears to be a hollowed-out, run-down biosphere. At first it’s not only difficult to tell who this man is, it’s uncertain whether this alien environment is located on earth or not. This fundamental lack of direction keys viewers into much of the experience that will follow while watching
Eden Log’s obscure nature is reflected in several key stylistic choices. The spacey, Eno-inspired score is cleverly revealed to be diagetic music midway through the film. The script delivers the much of the narrative elusively, through video logs and pre-recorded security camera footage. For much of its runtime, it remains a wordless experience (it was filmed simultaneously in French and English, and it’s quite obvious that a few scenes use post-production dubbing). For those familiar with modern videogames, many of these tropes will be familiar. The presence of mutants and anonymous government thugs running around, the inclusion of a nearly mute protagonist, who’s less a character than a computer gamer’s avatar, and the narrative structure, which unfolds as he makes his way down through a series levels down toward a secret finale, will resonate with those who have played action adventure games.
Though the architectural design of the Eden Log station, where the film is set, recalls H.R. Giger’s work from Alien, the dominant influence in Eden Log seems to be not science fiction genre, but instead German expressionism. The visuals present a constant contrast between bright floodlights and dark shadows. The sets feature ladders that ominously lead to nowhere and hallways that twist into oblivion. It’s a striking look that sees the color desaturated from the frame until images almost appear monochromatic. Some of these sets feel uncannily like art installations, using projected video to expand their small space. This at once maximizes what must have been a small budget for a science-fiction feature and lends a homemade quality to the film. Whether this is all meant to serve as a demo reel for the director’s future employment as a creator of big-budget action blockbusters or as his expression of personal obsessions a la Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo films is anyone’s guess. Either way, Eden Log does seem to announce Vestiel as a filmmaker worth keeping an eye on.