14 oct 2021

Why the film Eiffel with Romain Duris questions us

At the top of the box office this week, the French film Eiffel may be monumentally ambitious, but above all he makes us want to climb the towers. And it’s not because it’s just another biopic… Explanations.

We have to admit it: the trailer for Martin Bourboulon’s Eiffel

 , with its close-ups of the majestic Parisian tower under construction and its actors in costumes almost as monumental as the Iron Lady, is dizzying. Like its first miraculous images, the € 23.4 million biopic on the inventor Gustave Eiffel seduced spectators, since, according to Le Film Français, it attracted more than 1610 curious people on the morning of its release, this Wednesday, October 13. A feat in times of pandemic that puts the film at the top of the French box office, ahead of Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel , Julie (in 12 chapters) and all the other feature films that were highly anticipated this week.


The problem of representation in cinema


The problem is that even if we particularly like Romain Duris and Emma Mackey, the rock heroine of Sex Education, the idea of seeing them together on screen to live a crazy affair doesn’t really make us happy. In this fictionalized story of Gustave Eiffel, the French engineer from the École Centrale embarks on a pharaonic project for the 1889 Universal Exhibition to be held in Paris. He wanted to build a tower “more than a thousand feet high” in the shape of an A (for love), a phallic and dominant symbol if ever there was one, to impress the woman who had fascinated him in his youth and whom he finally found again. It was 1887 and Eiffel, who was 55 years old at the time, was played by
Romain Duris
, who was 47. The object of his affection is, for his part, played by Emma Mackey who is only 25 years old. We then wonder, if it is her childhood sweetheart, if she was already born when they first met. In real life, the genius inventor with an ego as oversized as his creation and the one who attracted him,  Adrienne Bourgès, were twelve years apart. And not more than twenty, as in this fictionalized version.

This casting choice is all the more annoying because it has become systematic, even after #MeToo and the complaints of actresses over 40 years old about their lack of opportunities. We continue to give roles as companions of men of 50 or 60 years old to actresses of 20 or 30 years old, as if after menopause, women were no longer of interest to anyone. If we look at recent film releases,
James Bond
(Daniel Craig, 53 years old) falls for Léa Seydoux (36 years old) in the latest adventures of Agent 007. The same Léa Seydoux will be on the bill, on December 29, in an adaptation of Philip Roth by Arnaud Desplechin, Deception. And, what luck, the actress will have a relationship with Denis Podalydès, a dashing 58-year-old man.


Want more? In 2023, we will soon be able to enjoy a new film by Ridley Scott, Kitbag, in which Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) will play Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s companion (played by
Joaquin Phoenix
). Historically, the Empress was 6 years older than her illustrious husband while Jodie Comer is almost 20 years younger than the hero of The Joker (2019). Producers, castors and filmmakers therefore have absolutely no justification, other than their own “daddy issues”, to continue to feed us with their thinly disguised and uninspired remakes of Lolita that no longer excite anyone but them.


Eiffel (2021) by Martin Bourboulon, available in theaters.