Martin Bourboulon’s French romantic drama film “Eiffel” presents a passionate telling of the life and works of the famous engineer Gustave Eiffel. Claiming itself to be “freely inspired by real facts,” it briefly accounts the life of Gustave during the construction of his most renowned work, with the intertwining of a fictional romantic relationship. There is nothing too spectacular about Eiffel’s use of the cinematic form and techniques, as it does its job fairly well, and its narrative works too, albeit it being a historically false one. Overall, the film is a decent watch but without many historical facts, which it seems to have at first glance.
‘Eiffel’ Plot Summary
In 1886, Gustave Eiffel was a civil engineer renowned all over the world for his works in the form of remarkable bridges, towers, and other monuments. At a semi-public gathering, the man is presented with an honorary citizenship of the United States of America for having constructed the inner structure of the Statue of Liberty, which would protect it from heavy winds and storms. Sometime later, he wants to be involved in the construction of a metro station in Paris when two men in his team come up with the idea of a four-legged tower, 200 meters long. But Gustave is hardly impressed or interested in making something that would be taken down twenty years later, and instead wants to build something useful and everlasting. To get his metro project sanctioned, he would need to meet with the Minister of Commerce, and in order to reach the high-positioned man, he gets in touch with Antoine de Restac, a journalist close to the ministry.
Gustave and Antoine once used to be classmates, and the journalist readily invites him to a party where the minister would also be present. Gustave goes over and has a successful introduction with the minister, but is completely taken aback by meeting Antoine’s wife, Adrienne. At the gala dinner, he cannot help but exchange glances with her, and it is evident that the two share some history together. Hearing his plan to build a metro, the minister plays it down, asking for something more iconic, and Adrienne agrees, saying that France needs something more audacious at the moment. Spurred by an intense moment of personal recollection, Gustave Eiffel promises a 300-meter long tower, made entirely out of metal that he would build in Paris, accessible to all classes of society.
Major Spoilers Ahead
What Happened Between Gustave And Adrienne?
Although Gustave denies to have any word with Adrienne in private after the party, he is visibly drawn to the woman as he goes around her neighborhood to get more glimpses of her. He meets Antoine, who invites him to his house, and Gustave soon finds himself sneaking into their bedroom, looking at everything belonging to Adrienne, which rekindles his old memories. Back in 1860, Gustave was in his novice years professionally, building a bridge over the Garonne river in Bordeaux. An upfront and honest team leader, he had marched up to the local wealthy Borges household, who were partly funding the project, asking for more funds to ensure the safety of his workers. It is here that he first met Adrienne, the daughter of the patriarch, who had instantly made a connection with the young engineer with her charm and extrovert nature.
At her birthday party, Gustave tried to express his passion by moving in for a kiss, only to realize that Adrienne was not on the same page yet. Walking out of the party, enraged by Adrienne’s dismissal, he kept no contact with her or her family. But the girl, of course, also had growing feelings for the man, and visited his work quarters a few days later, only to be harshly turned away by him.
Unable to take this insult and knowing that Gustave would rush to save her, Adrienne jumped into the river and was subsequently rescued by the man. From then on, the two started a passionate affair, making use of every chance to get intimate. However, on the day of the bridge’s inauguration, Gustave did not see his beloved, who was expected to be there, and went over to her house. He realized that the Borges had gotten to know of their affair, as the father told him that Adrienne had gone away and had no intentions of marrying him. Although shocked at his lover’s sudden turn, Gustave made it known that he would still wait for her if she ever returned, but unfortunately, that never happened.
Over the years, Gustave made himself grow strong over the incident, teaching himself to be apprehensive towards the rich and upper classes, as he believed Adrienne had abandoned him because of the difference in social class between them.
Twenty-six years later, at present, Gustave and Adrienne once again find opportunities to get close to each other, even once helplessly holding hands at a public gathering, in front of her husband, Antoine. The husband grows wary of this development and goes through Adrienne’s private letters to find out about their affair in the past. Antoine grows cold towards his old friend, and on one occasion, intentionally gets Gustave delayed for an important meeting to gather support and funds. But nothing can dissuade the lovers, and Adrienne finally reveals her side of the story when they secretly meet in a hotel room. She had been very excited about visiting the inauguration and also expressed her wish to get married to the engineer to her parents. But the parents were totally unconvinced owing to their high-class heritage. Adrienne then revealed to them that she was pregnant with Gustave’s child, something that she had not yet told her lover. This led to her having to try and run away from her house, with her father chasing behind to stop her. In an attempt to jump over a wall with metal spokes, she accidentally stabbed herself in her belly, terribly injuring herself and also killing the baby in her womb.
Finally, after all these years, Gustave feels extremely sorry for the misbelief he held onto inside his head, and the two lovers reconcile. This entire arc also shapes Gustave as a character and as a father in his personal life. Although he is not too convinced by the choice of lover by his eldest daughter, he keeps supporting the girl and never dissuades her from getting married to the love of her life.
How Did Gustave Deliver On His Promise Of A 300-Meters High Tower?
Although Gustave’s initial plans and designs for the tower to be built in Paris did convince authorities and workers alike to get involved in the project, he did not have smooth sailing throughout the construction phase. Concerns about safety, particularly from neighboring localities, about the site of construction being right beside the Seine river, were raised from the very beginning. Government officials also got involved, but ultimately allowed the project to go on based on Gustave’s passion and his status as a creator of iconic monuments. Certain sections of the population, including artists, also objected to the construction of such an industrial-looking structure in the Paris skyline.
Along with all these troubles, Gustave ‘s deteriorating relationship with the resourceful journalist, Antoine, also affected his status as the press and government officials started removing their support for him. All of this finally led to a shortage of funds, which resulted in a workers’ strike at the site, and construction was halted. But the man’s passion knew no end as he managed to encourage his workers to restart construction once again, and this time he took a very active role in the process. Within an unexpectedly short time of a few weeks, Gustave managed to complete the structure till first base, which ensured that he would keep receiving government funds to continue with it.
‘Eiffel’ Ending Explained: Do Gustave And Adrienne Get To Stay Together?
Adrienne now comes clean to her husband about her love for Gustave and asks to be separated. However, Antoine makes it very clear that he would not let her leave him in any circumstance. One night, they take a carriage and go to meet Gustave at the construction site. Calling the engineer into the carriage, Antoine tells him that he won’t let his wife, whom he had accepted after her parents had disowned her, run away with a lover from her past. He announced that they would be leaving Paris soon, and that he could destroy Gustave’s reputation by revealing his secrets and writing slander against his name. Gustave is clearly heartbroken by this but has no option but to express his feelings through his other love at the moment, the tower. The next morning, he orders that all bolts be replaced with rivets so that the tower can never be taken apart. The construction is finally complete, and massive crowds gather for its inauguration. Amidst the crowd, Gustave sees the face of Adrienne, who has come to applaud his passionate work, but soon leaves without making any contact with him. As Gustave walks onto the tower’s balcony, the camera closes in on his notebook where he has written Adrienne’s name, with the letter “A” drawn with an outline of the Eiffel Tower.
Gustave obviously makes his monument ultimately become an icon of his love for Adrienne. There was no plausible way that he could have had the love of his life stay with him, and so he decided to express his passion, love, perhaps even anger and frustration, all through the iconic tower that still lives on as a marker of modern industrial civilization. There is, of course, no historical evidence for the presence of any woman like Adrienne in Gustave’s life, despite the man having maintained a regular record of his life. Neither was Gustave Eiffel such a class-conscious man as the film portrays him to be. It is understandable, though, as the director takes his own creative liberty to tell a fictional tale of love about a historical man. There is perhaps no history to learn, as such, but overall, “Eiffel” is not a bad watch either.
“Eiffel” is a 2021 Biopic Romance Drama film directed by Martin Bourboulon.