Drama2001-2010GermanyMichael HofmannRomance

Michael Hofmann – Eden (2006)

A chef discovers that the old saw “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” works for women as well in this romantic comedy from Germany. Gregor (Josef Ostendorf) is a gourmet chef who runs a small but highly regarded restaurant in Berlin. Gregor believes that food can awaken the erotic impulses and he revels in the sensual pleasures of his cooking; however, he hasn’t had much luck in finding someone to share the joy of cooking with him. One night, Gregor meets Eden (Charlotte Roche), a woman who works as a waitress at a nearby resort hotel, and he’s immediately smitten. However, Gregor soon discovers that Eden is married to Xaver (Devid Striesow), an older man who teaches dancercise to the elderly, and they have a young daughter with Down’s syndrome. Since seducing Eden would be out of the question, Gregor does what, for him, is the next best thing — he cooks for her, starting with a special chocolate cake for her birthday, and following with a variety of special dishes that awaken her to the physical pleasures of life. Gregor’s culinary attentions make Eden happier at home, and kick-starts her sex life with her husband, but Xaver thinks something’s not kosher about Eden’s new friend, and when he learns she’s pregnant, he wonders if Gregor might be the father. Eden won the Audience Award at the 2006 Rotterdam Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

A rotund chef knows everything about cooking but little about anything else in Michael Hofmann’s nouvelle-cuisine light Eden. Two touching performances only partially compensate for a weak script that never even seems interested in challenging the superb 2001 feature Bella Martha (Mostly Martha), which is the three-star gold standard for food-and-love stories, especially when set in Germany. Eden was the surprise winner of the Audience Award at last year’s Rotterdam Film Festival is currently out on DVD in German-speaking territories and the Benelux and can be seen in limited theatrical release in the UK. The film will be most at home on TV and DVD.

The role of the cucina erotica chef Gregor was specifically written for Lower-Saxon actor Josef Ostendorf, whose acting talent is matched by his impressive girth. Gregor’s three-table restaurant in his home is booked for months ahead and the chef seems incapable of cooking anything that does not inspire orgastic cries of exaltation from his guests. In the opening sequence, Gregor is shown cooking in a way that can only be described as animalistic; his art does not so much seem to be based on rules and knowledge as it is on fine-tuning as he goes along. His life changes when he meets Eden (Charlotte Roche, a German music TV-presenter with an affable presence and a cheeky smile), a young mother with a child with Down Syndrome whose marriage to Xaver (Devid Striesow, Napola), a dance and swimming instructor, is not going well.

Writer-director Michael Hofmann is to be commended for not going in the obvious direction that most such stories seem to take (Bella Martha can be called a lot of things but original is not one of them), but the problem is that Hofmann’s alternative is not particularly profound and leads to a strangely absurd ending that feels as out of place as a quick visit to a drive-in after a prolonged three-course meal. Editing and cinematography are both by-the-numbers, with Eden never reaching the heights of visually sumptuous meals that normally make these food-and-friendship films so watchable (Ang Lee’s Yin shi nan nu/Eat Drink Man Woman comes to mind as a particularly appetising example).

Ostendorf and Roche are both great at creating their characters, but Hofmann gives them preciously little to work with. Gregor seems alone in this world except for his deaf-mute butler and an early flashback involving his mother (where is she now?) and Eden likewise seems alone in this world. Their friendship is not particularly eventful and always dictated by Gregor’s dishes or their absence, even though the verbose Eden tries to convince Gregor — and perhaps herself — otherwise. The only person who seems to have any real friendships is Xaver, who is portrayed as a loser who prefers to go out with his friends rather than stay at home with his wife and their handicapped daughter. In Eden, having friends is like the apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It looks delicious from a distance, but you would not want to take a bite.

1.46GB | 1 h 39 min | 998×576 | mkv




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