‘E.1027 – Eileen Gray and the House by the Sea,’ About the Pioneering Architect’s Battle With Le Corbusier, Boarded by Rise and Shine (EXCLUSIVE)

Berlin-based Rise and Shine World Sales has picked up the rights for “E.1027 – Eileen Gray and the House by the Sea,” which is vying for the top Dox:Award at Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX, one of Europe’s leading documentary festivals. Variety is debuting the trailer and poster, below.

Mixing archival footage and re-created scenes, this hybrid doc narrated in the first person takes viewers on a journey into the mind of Eileen Gray, a woman making her mark in a man’s world and one of the leading lights of modernist architecture.

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It opens in the house that she built in Southern France between 1926 and 1929 together with fellow architect, Jean Badovici, her lover at the time. The name of the house, E.1027, is a cryptic marriage of their initials.

Considered a masterpiece of architecture, built in Gray’s signature sober and elegant style, the house is at the center of the narrative: when he saw it, world-famous architect Le Corbusier, a friend of Badovici, became obsessed with it, eventually covering up its white walls with his own sexually graphic paintings.

“He was envious of her artistic vision, of her freedom, he couldn’t stand that a woman would go and build her first house, and that it was a complete masterpiece,” explains Beatrice Minger, who wrote and directed her debut feature film in collaboration with fellow Swiss filmmaker Christoph Schaub, who has made several films about architecture.

Gray left the house only a couple of years after building it, in search of peace and quiet to work. Years later, Le Corbusier, in his own words, “defiled” what he called the house’s “boring walls” with Badovici’s authorization, published photographs of them, and failed to contradict those who thought he had built it.

When Gray asked him to remove the paintings which she described as vandalism, he not only ignored her, but built his famous Cabanon right behind it.

Asked whether her wish was to set the record straight on Le Corbusier, Minger tells Variety, “It is a case of setting the record straight, yes, but it was never about making a ‘cancel culture’ film about a great architect [Le Corbusier]. Of course, emotionally, we are on her side, but we were more interested in the different layers where the violation actually took place.

“We may know, intellectually, about his appropriation of the house, but I had a very strong impulse, through the medium of film, to create an experience where we could feel what it means to be so suppressed, disrespected, not heard or seen – I wanted to go deeper and understand what is at work in these two different forces that are in friction in this house, and how it manifests itself from the point of view of art and architecture.”

E1027 Eileen Gray and the House by the Sea
“E1027 Eileen Gray and the House by the Sea”

According to Schaub, an award-winning director of both doc and fiction work (“Jeune Homme,” “Giulias Verschwinden”), “Eileen Gray is a much more interesting subject than Le Corbusier.”

“For me, it was interesting that you can abuse architecture – I’ve made a lot of films on architecture and never met this kind of abuse,” he tells Variety. “I mean, there is a lot of abuse in the cities – money-driven abuse – but this is plain rude, and that is why I was interested in doing the film: you can change the value of the idea of architecture by painting white walls. It was interesting to have so many approaches to architecture concerning this house and the work of Eileen Gray.”

In order to tell the story of her life, the filmmakers chose to re-create scenes based on Gray’s memoirs, shot both at the house itself, a listed building to which they were granted access, and in a studio. This hybrid form gave them the creative freedom to move between different spaces and cross boundaries in the same way Gray did with her avant-garde work.

Crucially, in the scenes set in the 1920s, the murals are absent, “thanks to CGI,” explains Minger. “We really wanted to have the experience of the house when she first entered it, because now there are murals all over the place, so it’s hard to imagine the place with white walls. When we saw it for the first time [without the murals], I had goosebumps: this is clearly something completely different!,” she exclaims.

With Natalie Radmall-Quirke in the role of Gray, Axel Moustache as Badovici, and Charles Morillon as Le Corbusier, the film is produced by Das Kollektiv für audiovisuelle Werke and Soap Factory, in co-production with Swiss Radio and Television, RTS, SRG SSR, and with the participation of ARTE GEIE.

E1027 – Eileen Gray and the House by the Sea
“E.1027 – Eileen Gray and the House by the Sea”

“The filmmakers make a deep bow to the great designer Eileen Gray — and leave some deep scratches on the monument of iconic modernist architect Le Corbusier. This is a piece of intelligent cinema entertainment that should resonate with buyers in many markets. We are thrilled to be representing it,“ says Rise and Shine’s managing director Stefan Kloos.

“E.1027 – Eileen Gray and the House by the Sea” will have its world premiere at CPH:DOX on March 19. The festival runs in and around Copenhagen from March 13 through 24.

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