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 paintingWritten by
If you have ever visited a cemetery and thought about the life story behind a particular gravestone or wondered what was going on inside the minds of visitors, Heddy Honigmann's haunting documentary Forever may shed some light. Honigmann is not a name that comes immediately to mind when we think of the world's great documentarians, but this work by the obscure Dutch director may place her in that elite category. Shot at the world famous Pere-Lachaise cemetery, the largest in Paris, the film explores the thoughts and feelings of those who have come to the gravesites to pay tribute to famous people such as Chopin, Modigliani, Apollonaire, Balzac, Proust, and Oscar Wilde as well as ordinary folks who lived and loved and have been remembered. It is a moving experience that engages both the mind and the heart.
The film opens with the story of pianist Yoshino Kimura, a young Asian woman who performs the work of Frederic Chopin as a means of connecting with her deceased father who loved his music. Scenes of Ms. Kimura playing the pensive melodies of Chopin's Nocturnes in concert are shown as the camera offers loving close ups of the pianist, the emotion revealed in her eyes. Another segment is about an Iranian taxi driver who tends to the grave of Persian poet Sadegh Hedayat. Quoting from Hedayat's "The Blind Owl", he says that he left home because of he was weary with his life in Iran and now aspires to be a singer of Persian classical songs, though he drives a taxi to stay alive.
Persuaded by Honigmann to sing before the camera, the man provides a tune based on the poetry of Hafez and the mournful melody seems to embody all the sadness in the history of Pére-Lachaise. Although some connect with the work of great artists like Modigliani, stories of ordinary people are shown as well. An elderly Spanish woman speaks at the gravesite of her husband, telling how she and her husband fled Spain because of Franco and his murderous priests. A young man from Korea explains how he came to appreciate the novels of Marcel Proust but can only tell us what they mean to him in his native Korean language. An older woman talks about her husband's death from a bee sting and how their three years together were the happiest of her life.
One of the most moving sequences is that devoted to an obscure poet named Elisa Mercouer whose story is told by Bertrand Beyern, a guide who leads tours through Pére-Lachaise. When Mercouer died in 1835 at the age of 26, her mother had her poems imprinted on her gravestone, yet now the letters have faded and with it Elisa's claim on immortality. Although the stories weave a web of nostalgia and loss, Forever is not a depressing film but a celebration of life, a poignant tribute to the people who lie buried beneath its exquisite grounds and an appreciative paean to the enduring power of art.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this