This week I saw the pre-screening of Hemingway’s Garden of Eden, which opens today in select theatres. Based on Ernest Hemingway’s revealing last novel and directed by John Irvin, the film is a disconcerting tale of a 1920’s married couple, played by Mena Suvari and Jack Huston. Huston is David Bourne, a poor, but talented writer that marries the well off Catherine Hill (Mena Suvari). Once married, they decide to take an extend honeymoon near Cannes, France for the summer. What follows involves sexual games, a stunning Italian woman, heavy drinking, and a dash of mental illness.
Although not my favorite movie this year, I was madly in love with the incredible landscapes, music and, of course, the fashion. The Costume Designer, Alexandra Byrne, dressed Mena Suvari impeccably. Fabulous jump suits, drop waist gowns, floral day dresses, wide leg slacks, lengthy pearls, nautical stripes, and more. If for nothing else, watch the film for the fashion and enjoy a martini afterwards, as I did – or wanted to do.
Yesterday I had the privilege of an interview with Mena Suvari about the making of the film.
V-Style: What attracted you to the making of Hemingway’s Garden of Eden?
Mena: I loved the story…and it is hard to find challenging roles (like this). As a woman I could identify with her and her struggles…
V-Style: What is it that you identified with Catherine?
Mena: …(I can relate to) a woman who has gotten a certain amount in her life… and the pressure to act or look a certain way when you have other desires in you.
V-Style: What aspect of Catherine was the most difficult to wrap your head around?
Mena: …This is the most challenging character I have had to play in my whole career. Emotionally mentally, physically…
V-Style: How do you mean by physically?
Mena: The whole thing was so intense and to be abroad in Spain all alone – so much put into it. I didn’t even think I could ever work again… I put so much into it… I read the novel many times… examined where Catherine was at every moment…it was so hard because we can’t shoot consecutively… I was all over the place… I was lucky to have John Irvin (helping me).
After discussing her character, Mena and I moved onto questions better suited for V-Style. Mena spoke in awe of the authentic vintage patterns used to build the costumes and the accurate fabrics used, like wool for the bathing suits. “The bathing suits were awkward…and uncomfortable. Can you imagine trotting on the beach in wool?” Mena laughed.
Although the bathing suits weren’t much fun for her, Mena is “someone who loves fashion” and every garment was “an absolute delight.” Mena excitedly told me about the authentic 1920’s Chanel textile used to make the blue dress she wears when her character meets Richard E. Grant’s character. She also told she was allowed to choose some of her own props. “I’ve never done that before,” Mena explained. She was escorted into a room full of authentic items from the time period and was able to pick out the cigarette lighter she would be using, as well as the white rounded sunglasses featured numerous times throughout the movie, “It was made from real Ivory.”
When I inquired about her favorite look or garment from the film, I already knew she was going to say the rose colored, sequined, see-thru frock she wears towards the end of the movie. The dress was absolutely stunning and she looked absolutely gorgeous in it. Her lean frame and bleached shorn hair combined with that incredible gown is a fashionable image I won’t forget.
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