Eiffel  (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Martin Bourboulon, France/Belgium/Germany, 2021, 108 mins, in French with subtitles

Cast:  Romain Duris, Emma Mackey

Review by Carol Allen

The Eiffel Tower is the iconic symbol for Paris, a landmark which is recognised all over the world.   It wasn’t actually built though until the 1880s.  And it is named after the engineer who designed and constructed it, one Gustave Eiffel.

Gustave (Romain Duris) is a highly respected engineer, who has just returned to Paris after collaborating on another international icon, the Statue of Liberty in New York.   The French government is pressuring him to design something spectacular for the 1889 Paris World Fair, but Eiffel isn’t that interested.   Until that is he once more meets Adrienne Bourges (Emma Mackey), with whom he had a passionate love affair when they were young.   Both are now married to other people, but their passion still burns and the renewed love affair is what persuades Gustave to change his mind and build the tower.   But after 108 minutes I’m still not sure why!

Because though they are two interesting stories – the building of the famous tower and the love story – they never really mesh together.   The film looks beautiful – it has a warm orangey glow which makes it look at times like an impressionist painting brought to life.   The scenes of Gustave working on the design and the workmen actually getting down to building it are fascinating.   But the love story, while going through the motions of forbidden passion and all that, never sets the screen on fire, not even a little smoulder.   The two stories seem to come from different films and never merge into one. 

The film claims to be “inspired by true events”.   It’s certainly true that Gustave Eiffel built the tower that bears his name.  Whether or not he had a passionate affair in his youth is quite likely though it may or may not be true.   But the film fails to convince that the renewal of that affair in his mature years was what persuaded him to design the Eiffel Tower.