Eiffel – Film Review

The Eiffel Tower stands tall in Paris as an iconic sculpture and the epitome of romance in the city of lights, with over 7 million visitors a year. It would be difficult to imagine the Parisian city landscape without it. Eiffel the new film starring Romain Duris as the eponymous engineer and creator of the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel, invites us into its world set in the 19th century without an Eiffel Tower. The film traverses Eiffel’s development of the Eiffel Tower, for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, with flourishes, epic crowd rousing scenes and a love interest but falls to ignite and create sufficient character interest as it relies on clichéd moments.

The good news is that the film Eiffel is beautifully shot with captivating, mesmerising shots across Paris capturing the sensations that the script fails to enunciate. The film also delves in to Eiffel’s early development of the tower’s structures within a dark, moody factory atmosphere emphasising the challenging physical labour involved in crafting the tower. Eiffel does, however, reveal Eiffel’s initial reluctance to build another tower after his successful American involvement in the construction of the Statue of Liberty.

Romain Duris as Gustave Eiffel in Eiffel
Romain Duris as Gustave Eiffel in Eiffel

Eiffel jarringly flits between the past and the near present with puffs of smoke serving as transitions, which is an interesting approach. Despite the focus on the past, the film demonstrates that Eiffel had the spirit of modernity and wished for a métro to be developed to remove class divisions amongst those in Paris and to encourage the use of public transport. It is not entirely clear as to the reasons for his change of opinion, to create the Eiffel Tower, although the film Eiffel hints that he may have been seeking to impress someone.

However, this concept of the inequality apparent in France strikes at the core of the film, as a theme, as Eiffel’s work evolves. It is an interesting development to say the least! There is certainly sufficient material regarding Eiffel’s work and efforts to convince conservative Parisians that a tower would be beneficial to them but without featuring those negotiations there is merely a superficial gloss within the film.  As such, the directional choice to interweave a love interest during such period is entirely perplexing! The inclusion of the impact of Eiffel’s relationship with Adrienne Bourgès, played by Emma Mackey, cited to have been a major influence on his work, means that the film struggles with its tone and the type of film that it wishes to be. Eiffel’s narrative shifts to encompass Adrienne’s story too and distorts the film’s focus. Ultimately, this leads to an overall loss of impact within Eiffel. The romantic scenes are melodramatic and clichéd with lingering looks and a sweeping score that sometimes have the unintended effect of seeming cringe inducing.

The interesting elements of Eiffel’s romantic relationship bring the class divisions to the fore, reveal the machinations and the psychological bullying in existence, in a period before gaslighting was an existing term. Within Eiffel, the message firmly delivered appears to be of maintaining the status quo with scenes unveiling the method employed by the existing institutions to keep Eiffel and others of his ilk firmly within their place in society. It is still a fight that many endure to this day to achieve their ambitions irrespective of socio-economic status.

Romain Duris and Emma Mackey in Eiffel
Romain Duris and Emma Mackey in Eiffel

Unfortunately, the romance solely serves to detract from the impressive, revolutionary construction of the Eiffel Tower itself. The film’s elliptical editing fails to emphasis the struggles in receiving the funding and the entirety of the negative sentiment levelled towards a building of 300 metres in height being erected in central Paris.

Eiffel is a film of two halves and Duris performs as well as expected. However, the film seems bloated and directionless. All the same, it is an entertaining watch to view the challenges that existed and the passion held by Eiffel to complete his project. Such moments seemed reminiscent of the spirit of Les Misérables, and the camaraderie and loyalty amongst colleagues, which lack further development. Eiffel unfortunately loses its momentum when it chooses to focus on everything else but its subject, Gustave Eiffel, leaving a rather uneven film in the process.


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