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Père-Lachaise - one of the world's most famous and beautiful cemeteries - is the final resting-place of a gifted group of artists from all eras and corners of the world. Some - such as Piaf, Proust, Jim Morrison and Chopin - are worshiped to this day. Others have fallen into oblivion, or are visited occasionally by a single admirer. In Forever we see the mysterious, calming and consoling beauty of this unique cemetery through the eyes of people of flesh and blood. Many come for their 'own' beloved: husbands, wives, family and friends. Others Honor 'their' artist by leaving behind a personal message or a flower. While admirers share with us the importance of art and beauty in their lives, the graveyard gradually reveals itself as a source of inspiration for the living. Death offers little consolation except for the passing of time, the melancholia of a moss-covered tomb, and the beauty and power of a piece of music, a poem or a painting Written by
Forever (2006), directed by Heddy Honigmann, is an unusual documentary about the famous Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. The cemetery contains the graves of many famous artists (Ingres), singers (Piaf, Callas), and writers (Proust). Most notably for U.S. tourists, Jim Morrison is buried in Lachaise. (Someone asks how to find Morrison's grave. The answer is, "Follow the signs." Morrison fans have written "To Jim" with arrows on other tombs to guide people to the grave site.)
Honigmann does much more than guide us through the cemetery. She interviews people who are visiting. Some have come to pay homage to the famous artists. Most, however, are visiting the graves of loved ones. Honigmann speaks to them in a friendly, non-invasive way, and they respond in kind. She's not afraid to let the camera linger while people think and consider. Often, after a while, they share their thoughts with her and with us.
The director takes a surprising and interesting detour during the film. A young Japanese pianist--Yoshino Kimura--visits Fredric Chopin's grave at Lachaise. Honigmann takes us to Kimura's studio, where Kimura plays a lovely Chopin piece. Although physically apart from the cemetery, this scene works because the calmness of the artist and the beauty of the music remind us of the calmness and beauty of Chopin's grave and of the Lachaise itself.
We saw this film at Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre. I think it would work well on DVD. It's probably hard to find, but it's worth seeking out.
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