First Run/Icarus Films
Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema on December 18th - 20th.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Art is important to life, as well as being an influence beyond death. That is the text of Forever, a visual essay by Dutch filmmaker Heddy Honigmann.
Honigmann takes us on a travelogue, of sorts, of the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. It’s an old, famous resting place for both the stellar and the ordinary. People visit from all over the globe to visit the tombs of Proust, Chopin, Maria Callas, Simone Signoret, and Jim Morrison. Locals tend to the properties of their loved ones, washing the markers, watering the plants and flowers, and keeping things tidy. Some sing or read aloud to those they visit.
But for whoever attracts these visitors, they, too, have their stories to tell. The locals tell sad tales about leaving their home countries, or how their spouse died. Others who visit the famous are inspired in their own work, and attempt to try to do better and different things with their lives and their art.
An Asian piano student visits the tomb of Chopin, and throughout the film we see clips of her practicing. A cartoonist is inspired by the writings of Proust to create comic strip versions of his novels. Three blind Parisians watch the classic Simone Signoret film Les Diaboliques, and discuss what a great actress she is.
And if you were thinking that a film centered in death is grim and depressing, you’d be wrong. The interviewees are fascinating, as are their stories. The clips of performers like Maria Callas, Michel Petrucciani, Simone Signoret, and others should inspire you to see out their work and either discover or re-examine what made them great. Honigmann photographs the cemetery as lovingly as she photographs a portrait hanging in the Louve, with the headstones, pathways, and décor just like any other work of great art.
Forever uses no voice over narration, just the words of the director and her subjects. There is no composed music score. Instead Honigmann opts for either the music of the performer being discussed, or the natural sounds and quietness of the cemetery itself.
Forever is quiet, peaceful, inspirational, and brings us to the realization that, yes, art is eternal, but so are people as long as they live in someone’s memory.
The stories will touch you. Their words may haunt you. But the film is so totally warm and life affirming that you will be hard pressed to not like it.
Forever is a presentation of Cincinnati World Cinema at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Showings are this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7 pm. There will be a post-film discussing after each screening, and there are dinner-and-a-movie opportunities at nearby eateries.