EmptyLONDON -- Don't see Michael Hofmann's tastily perverse little fable "Eden" on an empty stomach, or your belly will be growling by the end of his story about a chef's cucina erotica and its effects on a young married woman named Eden.
It's not that the dishes created by master chef Gregor (Josef Ostendorf) look so tempting; in fact, the film makes quite clear the baser elements of what goes on in a refined kitchen. No, it's because of the expression on the face of Eden (Charlotte Roche) as she relishes the food he creates, and the evident joy that Gregor takes in having his creations appreciated.
A culinary love triangle with some very dark twists, "Eden" should go down well with audiences that enjoyed "Chocolat" and "Sideways" and have a taste for the sweetly twisted.
With sly contributions from production designer Jorg Prinz and cinematographer Jutta Pohlmann, writer-director Hofmann renders a wickedly comic illustration of a kind of adultery that most men would never consider.
Eden is a waitress at her family's resort where her husband, Xaver (Devid Striesow), leads elderly folk in dancing and swimming lessons. They have a daughter, Leonie (Leonie Stepp), who suffered brain damage at birth and, though mostly joyful, endures restless nights.
Gregor is a large, lonely and doleful individual who creates £300 meals for gourmets at his three-table restaurant. In the park one day, where Eden has fallen asleep, Leonie tumbles into a pond and Gregor hauls her to safety. When Eden brings the girl by to say thanks, the chef offers some chocolate, which Leonie is forbidden to eat.
To everyone's surprise, however, the chef's creation serves to bring peaceful sleep to the child, and Eden also is smitten. Soon, she takes to visiting Gregor on her husband's night out with the boys but only to devour the fat man's cooking.
At home, she becomes a new woman, eagerly responsive to her mystified but grateful husband. Her mistake is to describe how Gregor's food makes her feel. It's seldom a good idea for a wife to tell her husband that another man has given her an orgasm.
When Eden becomes pregnant, Xaver's buddies make the predictable but erroneous connection with the gossip about her evenings with the rotund restaurateur. Jealousy flares and the story makes an unexpected but deliciously eccentric turn.
The facial expressions and body language of Ostendorf and Roche are a joy to watch as Hofmann takes his time relating their strange but fulfilling relationship. There's also a clever and witty score by Christoph Kaiser and Julian Maas, which uses cello, oboe and guitar to great effect.
The result is a film that invites a second viewing, not least for the sake of the taste buds.
ICA Films (U.K.)
Screenwriter-director: Michael Hofmann
Producer: Michael Jungfleisch
Cinematographer: Jutta Pohlmann
Production designer: Jorg Prinz
Editors: Bernhard Wiesner, Isabel Meier
Costume designer: Carol Luchetta
Music: Christoph Kaiser, Julian Maas
Gregor: Josef Ostendorf
Eden: Charlotte Roche
Xaver: Devid Striesow
Ludwig: Max Rudlinger
Leonie: Leonie Stepp
Frank: Roeland Wiesnekker
Running time -- 98 minutes
No MPAA rating