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Scarecrow on Seattle: EDEN (1996)

In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with the Seattle Office of Film + Music to bring you reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest with an emphasis on how these films showcase the region's many filmable locations.

Eden (1996)

There is a lot of buzz about Megan Griffiths' latest film Eden, but did you know there was another local indie called Eden shot hereabouts way back in 1996? Probably not. I don't think many people saw the other Eden, and even if you did you may not recognize the location since there are no shots that really scream "Seattle." The film is set at a private New England men's college during the mid-1960s. Mount Eden graduate Bill Kunen (Dylan Walsh) and his wife Helen (Joanna Going) return to their old stomping grounds after Bill gets a teaching job at his alma mater. To help make ends meet the young couple rent out part of their house to a pair of college students. One of the tenants, an idealistic rebel named Dave (Sean Patrick Young Indiana Jones Flanery), has a serious crush on Mrs. Kunen and a volatile student/teacher relationship with Mr. Kunen. Dig this, it's 1965 and Dave is going hippie. When we first meet the disaffected Mount Eden student, he is singing "The Times They Are A-Changin'" accompanied by his acoustic guitar, and later he sports a "See Canada Now" button affixed to his jacket. Dave's increasingly radical activity aggravates the straight-laced teacher as the young upstart is one of the Bill's favorite students. Oddly, he doesn't seem to care too much about Dave's infatuation with his wife. Speaking of Helen (who is also the movie's narrator), the young housewife suffers from multiple sclerosis and as the film progresses, her health gets increasingly worse. During this time she simultaneously has numerous out of body experiences and these journeys outside Helen's physical form are conveyed through bright lights and simple optical effects. Eden possesses a typical independent drama vibe and is generally a little too low-key for its own good. While the movie explores some interesting themes (like astral projection and student rebellion), it remains a very mild and subdued viewing experience that is more at home on cable television than the big screen.

I wonder if the location scouts for Eden watched The Chocolate War for reference, as the two films utilize the Pacific Northwest as a surrogate Atlantic Northeast. Both productions make extensive use of the former seminary in Kenmore's beautiful Saint Edward State Park and the current home of Bastyr University makes for a very convincing East Coast private school. The Mount Eden campus is fleshed out with a handful of locations around the University of Washington campus (most prominently Denny Hall), and the quaint Madrona-Sally Goldmark Library. Those with highly trained actor eyes will spy numerous local thespians in supporting roles including R. Hamilton Wright, Sean Christensen, Edward O'Blenis, Marjorie Nelson and John Aylward, plus Anna Faris in one of her first movie roles.

-Spenser Hoyt


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