March 15, 2009
Eden Is West, 2009
The quixotic search for a better life in the West collides with the reality of immigration raids, exploitation, and poverty in Costa-Gavras's picaresque, if insubstantial and ultimately unremarkable film, Eden Is West. Embodying the prototypical image of the naïve, wide-eyed immigrant is Elias (Riccardo Scamarcio) who, as the film begins, has paid smugglers a substantial fee for the privilege of staking a spot in the overcrowded hull of a ship bound for the French coast. Fearing immediate deportation after a coast guard vessel announces its intention to board the ship for inspection, Elias and his friend (Odysseas Papaspiliopoulos) - alomg with a handful of other desperate voyagers - jump overboard and head toward the lights of a nearby shore, landing on the clothes-optional beach on the foothills of a luxury resort appropriately called Eden. However, even the seeming paradise of all-you-can-eat buffets and wealthy, attractive patrons (in particular, a German woman named Christina [Juliane Köhler] who embarks on an affair with the handsome Elias) still has its drawbacks - a clogged toilet that needs immediate clearing, the continued presence of police searching for illegal immigrants who may have reached the shore, a resort manager (Eric Caravaca) who uses his position of authority to proposition a subordinate - that would invariably send Elias away in search of greener pastures, spurred in part by the invitation of a traveling magician, Nick Nickelby (Ulrich Tukur) to visit him in his hometown of Paris. Part whimsical comedy that conveys an immigrant's sense of wonder and part social realism that illustrates the plight of undocumented workers, the idiosyncratic fusion results in a film that is neither satirical enough to expose underlying social absurdities nor illuminating in its cursory and generalized observations of complex issues.