FOREVER (director/writer: Heddy Honigmann; screenwriters: Judith Vreriks/Ester Gould; cinematographer: Robert Alazraki; editor: Danniel Danniel; Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Carmen Cobos; Icarus Films Home Video; 2006-Netherlands-in French with English subtitles)
“It’s a surprisingly upbeat and moving film considering it’s set at a cemetery.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Peruvian-born, Netherlands-based, maverick filmmaker Heddy Honigmann (“Good Husband, Dear Son”/ “Crazy”/”Give Me Your Hand”) directs this memorable documentary shot at Paris’ legendary Père-Lachaise cemetery, where she visits the final resting place of Frederic Chopin, Maria Callas, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Sadegh Hedayat, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Honoré Balzac, Georges Bizet, Jean-Baptiste Moliere, Eugène Delacroix, Edith Piaf, Isadora Duncan, Guillaume Apollonaire, Amedeo Modigliani and Jim Morrison, among the 300,000 others buried there. Honigmann films it as if a celebration of art and beauty, showing the cemetery to be a source of peace and inspiration for the living. Visitors abound bringing flowers, leaving messages, memorabilia for the gravesites or to clean the tombstones. Honigmann interviews a number of tourists from around the world who made the pilgrimage to the graves of their favorite artists and regular visitors from Paris wishing to show their admiration for the artist. Some tell anecdotes about the deceased and some share personal tales of how the artist may have influenced their lives.
There are many delightful moments such as a young embalmer shown painting the face of a beautiful dead woman and mentioning he was inspired in his craft by the painter Modigliani; a young Japanese pianist expresses her reverence for her Chopin-loving father and Chopin himself, through thoughtful words of respect and by playing Chopin’s Nocturne No. 8; a middle-aged illustrator talks about how he wasn’t able to appreciate Proust until he reached 35 and experienced life, and has created a comic book of Remembrance of Things Past; an Iranian cabdriver living in exile in Paris is at the grave of Sadegh Hedayat, arguably Iran’s greatest modern writer, and talks about how Hedayat helped him understand the nature of his self-imposed exile; and a cemetery guide for tourists mentions that the grave that moves him the most is that of Elisa Mercoeur, a now forgotten 19th-century poet who died at 21, and that for the last 20 years he has observed how her unattended tomb has gone to seed and that her poem inscribed on its side by her mother over the tears has slowly become unreadable.
It’s a surprisingly upbeat and moving film considering it’s set at a cemetery.
REVIEWED ON 3/29/2009 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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