The Eden Myth

by Lang Thompson
Over the past few years the term "independent film" has become not just a code word for "art film" but more importantly a code word that  indicates a relative ease of access:  Viewers won't be expected to have actually read any books, know about music other than rock, possess much patience or even really know much about film.  A girl, a gun, some "sharp" and "quirky" dialogue, a few plot twists and heck you've got a movie.  No need for audiences to read subtitles when you've got all the thrills right here in English and a visible "independence" (from Hollywood in theory though not practice) to prove you're doing right by Art.  It doesn't matter that "independent film" is an economic/business term and that the vast majority of independent films are the action, soft-core, horror, etc titles heading straight to video and into empty cable slots.

This matters to The Eden Myth because it's a film whose lengthy closing credits seem to list everybody who invested in the film or gave the filmmakers a hot meal.  The movie is odd and surprising and without the current independent film climate would have been consigned to a realm of never-seen films which, sadly enough, is probably where it belongs.  From what little background info I've been able to piece together, writer/director Mark Edlitz has worked as an assistant to David Mamet, probably why the cast--excepting soap opera vet Mark Pinter--seems to be stage actors with little, if any, film experience and why the film's central idea is one that possibly might have worked on stage but not the screen.  (By the way, a Philip Glass score was promised but only partially materialized:  there is in fact Glass music but so little and so unconnected to the film that it's likely Glass simply authorized the use of existing music.)

The story is fairly simple.  A grown son returns to his parent's house for a mysterious announcement; his sister and two brothers show up the next morning.  The father's announcement, made privately to the son, is that he's found a woman for the son to marry, promising that the son will like her so much that there's no doubt about the marriage which has already been arranged and scheduled to occur in a few days.  Outraged at first but then hesitantly, the son agrees to meet the woman.  Why this woman?  Why is the father so certain?  What are those strange family interactions?

Not to give much more away but the film's big surprise is certainly one that probably nobody could guess and that is perhaps the film's biggest flaw.  To keep this secret, the film will follow a conversation up to a key point and then change scenes.  In other words, it's not a story of a character discovering something but a story deliberately twisted so that the viewer won't find out anything too early.  Even more problematic is that the revelation (and yes, I won't reveal it either) serves to pretty much completely destroy any credibility the film might have built up.  Since I'm not going to reveal the big secret, I can't go into much detail but it's the kind of thing that raises numerous little objections and quite a few major ones; it's something that is clearly physically impossible which uneasily and unexpectedly thrusts the film over into fantasy.  (Ah heck, I'll put the info on a separate page.)  From there, the rest of the story starts to crumble:  Why do the children seem to not be familiar their parents' house?  Where did they grow up?  And how on earth was somebody able to get away with a spur-of-the-moment, completely undetectable murder?  Was he/she a former CIA black ops agent?

Most of the actors have the type of stilted, clearly projected delivery that stage training seems to bring to film.  Perhaps it works in some circumstances but here's it's just annoying with two major exceptions:  Julie Dion has the difficult role of being "the perfect woman" but she conveys an interior grace that works quite well, while Zohra Lampert (another TV actor) as the suffering and seemingly stroke-impaired mother brings a bit of substance to an under-written role.

Perhaps fans of the American Gothic strain that's so strong in recent indies and indie-wannabes (such as American Beauty) might have a little grist for an analytic paper here.   But they'll wish they'd chosen some other line of work.

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