★★★★ - STUFF
- A brisk, exciting and likeable tale about one man and his famous tower -
Only one worker died during the construction of the Eiffel Tower.
Learning that last night, watching this “freely inspired” film about the tower and the man whose name is on it, was enough to send me to the internet to find out just what a wonderfully low tally that is, if you compare it to other construction projects of the age. The Sydney Harbour Bridge accounted for 16 men, despite being built two decades later.
The Eiffel Tower is 300 metres high. At the time, no other building had even climbed past 200 metres. When the tower was completed in 1889, it was the world's tallest man-made structure. A title it held for more than 40 years, before the Chrysler Building in New York was completed in 1930.
Today, the Eiffel Tower is the most visited human-made monument on Earth, with more than 6 million visitors in any non-pandemic year. It was originally intended to be taken down after just 20 years.
Gustave Eiffel was an unusual man. Although, maybe not so unusual in France as he might have been in – say – America or England at the time. Eiffel was famously concerned with his worker's safety, even while he was sending them down into mighty caissons he had sunk into the bed of the Seine, with only rudimentary pumps to keep the air pressure high enough to keep the water out.
The tower was the result of a competition among engineering firms and designers to be awarded the contract to build … something, to mark the World's Fair to be held in Paris.
Eiffel's design – adapted from a competitor's patent he purchased – was so audacious and yet thoroughly planned and ready to be executed, that the selection of the winner was a foregone conclusion. There was no greater engineer in France – or probably the world – than Eiffel and the Tower was his signature achievement.
Martin Bourboulon's Eiffel does a fine job of bringing all this good stuff to life, while embellishing and entangling it with a love story which is, not to put too fine a point on it, a complete load of bollards from beginning to end. But, for once, I really didn't mind.
Despite having only a couple of films on his feature CV, Bourboulon seems to have complete control of his material here, bringing this potentially unwieldy yarn home in a lean 108 minutes and extracting a bunch of very good performances from his cast.
As Eiffel, Romain Duris (All The Money In The World) does the national hero proud, making something appealing and believable out of the myth. Next to Duris, French/British Emma Mackey (Sex Education) runs the gamut from reliable to luminous, as the mostly fictional lost-love Adrienne. Eiffel's actual wife and children don't do quite so well in Eiffel, with barely a mention of Eiffel's real domestic story.
Eiffel is a brisk, exciting and likeable film. The made-up elements are sweetly inconsequential, but the creation of the tower is still impressive today. Go and have a look.
- Graeme Tuckett, STUFF
Eiffel is now playing at Light House Cinema!
(In English and French with English subtitles)