Hofman, 2006, Germany 98 mins
Cast: Josef Ostendorf, Charlotte Roche, Devid Striesow
Review by James Lye
Food and sex often
go hand in hand, demonstrated in the refrigerator scene
with Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger in 9½ Weeks or the aphrodisiacal confectioneries in
Chocolat. In Michael Hofman's film Eden, this is taken to
extremes by Chef Gregor Barbier's Cucina Erotica. His sensuous
cuisine is in such high demand that his select clientle
are prepared to travel from miles around and his exclusive
restaurant is fully booked months ahead.
Set in a faded resort town that has seen better days, this
film focuses on the sweet relationship between Gregor (Ostendorf)
and a married waitress, Eden, played by German TV star Charlotte
Roche in her first leading role. Driven by his insatiable
love for all things edible, Gregor spends all his time shopping
for food, cooking or eating. His lonely existence is disrupted
by meeting Eden, an event brought about by Eden's daughter
Leonie. After baking Leonie a birthday cake, Gregor begins
to entertain Eden at his house.
The transcendental qualities of the food require a little
stretch of the imagination; these are demonstrated on Eden's
first taste by the world turning momentarily silent, suggesting
that she was briefly transported to a place of sublime peace.
An impressive effect for a chocolate! The food itself may
be a metaphor for the experiences that Eden is missing from
Eden's relationship with her husband Xaver (Devid Streisow)
is spiced up by her meetings with Gregor as the sublime food
re-awakens her passion for sensuality. Gregor's life too
is much improved by his frequent meetings with Eden, inspiring
his cuisine to reach new world-beating standards.
Gossip is unavoidable in a small town and things start to
turn sour when Xaver's friends begin to speculate about the
true nature of Eden's weekly visits. When he samples Gregor's
cooking for himself Xaver realises that he must act and whisks
Eden away for a romantic break. Only while she is away, does
Gregor realise the true nature of his feelings for her. Without
her he is only an average chef.
The plot is driven by the emotions of the characters and
their relationships with each other. The unfolding story
of Eden and Gregor's relationship is portrayed in a charming
and realistic manner and the moments of comedy are often
painful, focusing on the small struggles of life. Xaver especially
encapsulates the small-town frustration of unrealised dreams.
A failed lawyer, he teaches dancing and swimming to retired
tourists. Streisow judges the role perfectly to create a
sympathetic character, trapped in a provincial town, all
he has is his community standing and his family and he is
prepared to fight for them. Roche gives a good performance
as Eden, especially considering that this is her first leading
role. Ostendorf's Barbier is excellent, managing to be genuine
and sympathetic but not especially likeable.
The turning point of the film, when the town gossip becomes
too much for Xaver to ignore, is a real shock, especially
after the gentle tale preceding it. However, the bitter final
scenes, with their moments of violence and tragedy, still
manage to raise the occasional smile.
Hofman often manipulates the sound and the visuals to pull
the viewer deep into the story. Frequent use of close-up
shots reinforces the intimate nature of this film, and relies
heavily on the actors' abilities to portray emotions with
minimal dialogue. Fortunately, they are all well up to the
task and the film is an absorbing tale of food, love and