Why would a man build the tallest structure in the world? Eiffel answers that question with an old-fashioned romance that will tug at your heartstrings. France’s iconic tower gets a forbidden love story spanning decades. A brilliant engineer changes the course of architectural history through his passion for an unattainable woman. Eiffel mixes equal parts national hero with sizzling attraction. Laces are loosened and corsets fly as passionate kisses quicken pulses. Director Martin Bourboulon gets top marks for a beautifully made film that captures intimacy and grandeur.
On March 31, 1889, Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris) stands on top of his epic accomplishment surrounded by the splendor of Paris. He sighs deeply as the film flashes back three years. In September 1886, Gustave is awarded honorary citizenship to the United States. His metal framework for the Statue of Liberty has given him global fame. France’s government wants him to create something magnificent for the World’s Fair. Gustave is set on designing a metro for the city. He scoffs when shown a rudimentary model for a tower that would surpass the Washington Monument. The significant funds spent should be on something that will benefit the common citizen.
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Gustave’s attendance at a dinner feting his success opens old wounds. He’s stunned when Antoine de Restac (Pierre Deladonchamps) introduces his gorgeous wife, Adrienne (Emma Mackey). Gustave pretends not to know her as they gaze at each other with a fierce longing. Adrienne remarks that a tower in Paris would be a symbol for all of France. The guests gasp when Eiffel declares he will construct a tower three hundred meters tall. Later that night working feverishly in his office, Eiffel remembers building a bridge in Bordeaux twenty years earlier. A chance encounter with Adrienne Bourgès, a wealthy heiress, sparks a sensual romance.
Told in Different Time Periods
Eiffel is told in three different time periods. We see the relationship between Gustave and Adrienne bloom; then mysteriously end as they reconnect years later under difficult circumstances. What happened between them is revealed during an emotional climax. Gustave cannot tear himself away from her as the project comes under siege. Local residents are furious at the massive eyesore. Workers demand more money. Adrienne desperately wants him but is a married woman. Antoine is no fool. He knows that something exists between them. His efforts to thwart Gustave adds another complication.
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Romain Duris and Emma Mackey have substantial chemistry in every situation. They are magnetic as young lovers. Tearing each other’s clothes off while hiding from her disapproving parents. Their adult affair takes place in deeper secret with furtive glances, hidden touches, and illicit rendezvous to avoid scandal. He’s a gallant genius from a poor background. She’s a wealthy girl with an independent mind. They run the gamut from ecstasy to tears. Both characters know what’s at stake.
Martin Bourboulon, director of the popular Papa ou Maman (Daddy or Mommy) French films, shows ability here. The love story never overtakes the tower. We see the rigors of its development. There are also subplots regarding Eiffel’s daughter (Armande Boulanger) and his battles securing funding. The production design, sets, and cinematography look fantastic. The tower takes shape with the drama and romance. All facets of the narrative fit seamlessly together.
Eiffel might be criticized for its dated approach and fantastical imaginings. In an early scene, Adrienne plays a damsel in distress to get Gustave’s attention. Her character is no pushover. The tower begins as symbol for France; then transforms as a monument to her. Love makes you do crazy things. I’m a sucker for a good romance.
Eiffel is a VVZ Production with French dialogue and English subtitles. It will have a limited theatrical release in the United States on June 3rd from Pathé Distribution.