300 meters of disappointed love: "Eiffel in Love" holt "Titanic" to Paris

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300 meters of disappointed love
“Eiffel in Love” brings “Titanic” to Paris

From Sarah Platz

In 1886 Paris was still without a landmark. That should change, however, when Gustave Eiffel meets his childhood sweetheart. In “Eiffel in Love”, Martin Bourboulon tells the story of the Eiffel Tower, which would never have been built without the on-off relationship of a young engineer.

It is well known that love moves mountains – especially in films. She overcomes the conservative class boundaries of the 1950s (“The Notebook”) and lets a little boy become a drummer almost overnight (“Actually Love”). Finally, after the sinking of the “Titanic”, Jack gives his beloved Rose the life-saving place on the door in the ice-cold ocean. Love also plays the driving force in Martin Bourboulon’s new drama “Eiffel in Love”. It is she who convinced Gustave Eiffel at the end of the 19th century to build a 300 meter high steel tower in the center of Paris.

Because that wasn’t originally the young engineer’s plan. He was celebrated in 1886 for his work on the Statue of Liberty and would now like to devote himself entirely to building the metro. When the French government asked him to build something spectacular for the world exhibition, Eiffel initially refused. However, that changes quickly when he meets his childhood sweetheart Adrienne Bourgès again. His past love is now married. Nevertheless, the passion between Gustave and Adrienne sprouts again – and ultimately inspires him to design the Eiffel Tower.

Through flashbacks, Bourboulon tells the earlier love story of the young engineer and the girl from a wealthy family, which creates a successful arc of suspense. Right at the beginning, the audience wonders why the wedding that was planned at the time never happened. However, this will only be answered at the end. Emma Mackey (Adrienne Bourgès) and Romain Duris (Gustave Eiffel) take the longing off one after the other. While Mackey manages to convey a crackling sound with just a glance, Duris embodies the zest for action of a young engineer with big plans in a charming way.

A little Jack and Rose

It is made so easy for the viewer to accept Gustave as a modern hero: the good-looking engineer is funny, advocates the safety of his construction workers and rejects class society. So he insists that the Eiffel Tower can be seen equally by everyone and “makes no social difference”. His sympathy also excuses the touch of megalomania that probably every hero brings with them. Gustave’s initially naive-sounding ambition to bring “tourists from all over the world to Paris” with the Eiffel Tower is somewhat reminiscent of Jack on the “Titanic”: “I am the king of the world.”

The fire flares up again between Adrienne and Gustave.

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(Photo: Constantin Filmverleih GmbH)

In general, there are strong similarities with James Cameron’s world success: a historical event is retold as real as possible and linked to a fictional love affair. The comparison sounds exaggerated, but Bourboulon himself brought it into play. “Great cinema only comes about when you tell great passionate stories – by the way, Jack and Rose on the ‘Titanic’, they never existed”, said the director on Deutschlandfunk.

However, there is also the weakness of “Eiffel in Love”. While Jack, Rose and the ship share a common story – after all, they went down together – the connection between the love drama between Adrienne and Gustave and the construction of the Eiffel Tower seems forced in many places. Bourboulon uses the rekindling love as Gustave’s drive for the project, but otherwise the young, married Adrienne has nothing to do with the tower. Only at the end does she give her horned husband a choice: Either she stays with him or he uses his influence to destroy Eiffel’s heart project.

The building is the real star

The story of the creation of the Eiffel Tower is thus the third plot of the film alongside the early and late romantic drama – and the most impressive. Bourboulon manages to get across the drama of planning and building a tower that overshadowed everything else at the time. This is ensured on the one hand by the backdrops, which make the gloomy, dirty alleys of a Paris, which is only at the beginning of the industrial age, just as tangible to the viewer as the pompous home furnishings of the rich.

It all started with a model.

It all started with a model.

(Photo: Constantin Filmverleih GmbH)

Above all, the images of the creation of the gigantic steel structure burn into the memory. The fact that “half” the Eiffel Tower looks so real is due to the fact that it consists partly of a real replica and partly of special effects, as the director revealed in an interview with Deutschlandfunk.

In addition, Bourboulon expects the viewer to have just the right amount of details about hydraulics, foundations and technology to understand that Eiffel had to overcome the limits of what was previously possible with the tower in the middle of the capital. The ingenuity and engineering performance in the construction of the Eiffel Tower are the core messages of “Eiffel in Love” – ​​if you ignore the love story that runs parallel to it.

“We’re getting closer to God”

As innovative as the construction plans for the 300-meter-high structure were at the time, its implementation turned out to be just as dangerous – that’s not neglected in the film either. For example, a worker Gustaves hangs completely unsecured in the scaffolding at a dizzying height when he tries to connect two parts of the Eiffel Tower. Of moments to cheer like this, “Eiffel in Love” could certainly have used more.

The dark alleys in Paris at the end of the 19th century.

The dark alleys in Paris at the end of the 19th century.

(Photo: Constantin Filmverleih GmbH)

Because Bourboulon deals with all the problems that arise during the construction of the Eiffel Tower in just one scene: When the tower threatens to sink into the soft ground, Gustave does not have to turn a hand twice and the situation is under control again. So it is almost irritating for the viewer that the financiers jump out at short notice because the further construction is “too dangerous”. But that’s not a problem either – Gustave will pay for it himself.

A workers strike could paralyze the project. However, a brief, pathetic speech by Gustave can dispel all doubts. Now the Vatican feels “humbled” by the construction of the huge tower. The engineer simply smiles away: “We’re just getting closer to God.” Eventually there is resistance from the population to the construction of the tower. That in turn just sits out Gustave.

Gustave and Adrienne fell in love when the young woman was still living with her parents.

Gustave and Adrienne fell in love when the young woman was still living with her parents.

(Photo: Constantin Filmverleih GmbH)

Before the viewer has understood that the construction of the Eiffel Tower could be seriously jeopardized by resistance from society or the turning off of the money tap, the problems no longer exist. A little more persistence would have been worth it and the tension of this action would have been good.

“Eiffel in Love” has a few weaknesses, but convinces with great pictures, a great cast and the interesting story about what was then the tallest building in the world. Bourboulon has created a remarkable drama in the style of “Titanic”. However, the 100-minute romance between Gustave and Adrienne does not come close to the love story of Jack and Rose.

“Eiffel in Love” will be in cinemas from November 18th

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