The Eiffel Tower has long won the hearts of couples in love.
Now, a new film puts forth a fitting romantic theory that the menacing edifice was built by its creator as a tribute to the woman he loved.
Opening tomorrow in Paris, Eiffel tells the story of engineer Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris) and his journey to build what would become one of the world’s most recognizable monuments.
As in real life, the film shows Eiffel as initially reluctant to build the 324m tower, originally intended as a temporary structure for the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. Still, he eventually agreed to a decision that baffled historians.
The film’s explanation for this change of heart is a woman named Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey), whom Eiffel had loved as a young man, but was refused permission to marry.
A doomed love behind the tower: Eiffel stars Roman Duris as engineer Gustave Eiffel and Emma Mackey of Sex Education as Adrienne Bourgès, the woman she believes inspired the tower
Change of heart: As in real life, the film shows Eiffel (pictured) as initially reluctant to build the 324 m high tower, originally intended as a temporary structure for the entrance to the Exposition Universelle from 1889. But in a decision that stuns historians, he finally agreed
A sign of his love: The plot claims that a chance meeting between the couple later in life inspired Eiffel to create the tower, even inspired by Adrienne’s initial for the ‘A’ frame
The plot claims that a chance meeting between the pair later in life inspired Eiffel to create the tower, even being inspired by Adrienne’s initial for the ‘A’ frame.
After a decades-long journey from page to screen, Eiffel was met with tremendous excitement by critics and is expected to boost the flag of the French film industry following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
Producer Vanessa van Zuylen even went so far as to compare the film with ‘the French Titanic’.
Eiffel is a mixture of a broadly historically accurate biopic and a fictional love story.
Gustave Eiffel really met Bourgès. The pair were introduced to her native Bordeaux when she was 17 and he 27 and early in his career. He had come to town to build an iron bridge over the Garonne River.
The romance blossomed and the couple hoped to marry, but Eiffel’s request to propose marriage was turned down by Bourgès’ father, who didn’t think he was good enough for his daughter.
Family life: Gustave married family friend Marguerite Gaudelet (seated left), from his hometown of Dijon. The couple had five children (pictured) before her death in 1877, aged 32
“He was heartbroken, but also deeply humiliated,” Bongrand told AirMail.
“Everything that happened after that flowed from that. It wasn’t so much that he wanted revenge, but that he wanted to prove to the world what he could do.
Then he wrote to his mother and said, “That’s it for me. Just find a nice girl with a good character, who is good and simple. I don’t need to fall in love with her. I just want to get married.”
That “nice girl” was family friend Marguerite Gaudelet, from his hometown of Dijon. The couple had five children before her death in 1877, aged 32.
Eiffel, who was 42, rich and successful when he lost his wife, never remarried.
It is at this point in the story that the fictional meeting with Bourgès takes place.
Single life: Eiffel, who was 42, rich and successful when he lost his wife, never remarried. Pictured, Eiffel with four of his children in 1882, five years after his wife’s death
Eiffel meets Bourgès, now married to one of his friends, and falls in love with her again. In Bongrand’s narration of the events, he builds the tower in an attempt to impress her.
The film does contain the contemporary objection to the design, which was branded as an eyesore by the city stars.
However, historians have spoken out against the historical accuracy of the film in general.
Christine Kerdellant, author of a biography of the engineer La Vraie Vie de Gustave Eiffel (The True Life of Gustave Eiffel), told The Times that the theory is simply “not true.”
She said the tower was in fact designed by Eiffel’s assistants, although the ‘A’ shape reportedly reminded the engineer of Adrienne and a beloved cousin, Alice.
Cinema analysts expect big things for Eiffel despite the inaccuracies, and some are reportedly forecasting record monthly revenues.