Forever

"Very Good"

Forever Review


In Heddy Honigmann's meditative and measured Forever, her touching tone poem to Paris's famed Père-Lachaise cemetery, the camera picks up a bit of graffiti that reads, "The Artists are Sad; Comfort Them." The artists buried in Père-Lachaise are a veritable who's who of high art and literature -- Frèdèric Chopin, Marcel Proust, Guilliaume Apollinaire, Amadeo Modigliani, Sadegh Hedayat, and like Georges Mèliès, Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, and Jim Morrison. And there are many people who come to the cemetery to comfort them, mostly in the Blind Lemon Jefferson mode, to see that their graves are kept clean and also to contemplate the art that they have left behind.

Honigmann opens the film with Père-Lachaise as a peaceful valley of solace from reality with the sounds of chirping birds and feet on gravel paths and shots of epitaphs, people cleaning graves, the elderly in canes walking to grave sites, lovers making out on a bench, women filling up water bottles to refresh the flowers, and another woman feeding the birds. But then a woman asks the way to Jim Morrison's grave, and Honigmann shoots a beautiful young Asian woman sedately applying flowers to Chopin's memorial and the film explores its theme, which Honigmann boldly states to a mourner: "I am making a film about the importance of art in life."

Honigmann centers her film on several of the mourners -- Yoshino Kimura, the mourner at the Chopin grave and an aspiring concert pianist; Stephane Heuet, a lover of Proust whose writings inspired him to draw a graphic novel version of À la recherche du temps perdu; Reza Khoddam, a taxi driver whose devotion to Iranian writer Hadayat encouraged him to seek his artistic release in singing traditional Persian folk music; and David Pouly, an embalmer influenced by Modigliani. It is when Honigmann interviews these passionate artists that Forever soars, for it is not so much about the cemetery of dead artists so much as the dead artists' art and how it lives on after the creators have turned to dust.

Heuet tells Honigmann that he came onto Proust late after 35 years of life and that his life experience made him understand Proust for the first time. Honigmann prods Khoddam to sing, and when he does it is beautiful. Most moving of all is Kimura, whose love of Chopin came to her after the sudden death of her father, who also loved Chopin. Kimura is not very verbal about why she loves Chopin except to say that she plays Chopin as a tribute to her father, but when, at the end of the film, she appears in concert, Honigmann films her in tight close-up and as she plays, her love and passion for the music we now know proving beyond mere words.

Beyond the celebrities, Forever becomes melancholy and sad for the others buried in Père-Lachaise. Women come to mourn their husbands. Mothers come to mourn their daughters. A tour guide at Père-Lachaise tries to keep the lamp burning for the forgotten. He visits the grave of a woman who died in her early twenties, a young singer on the verge of success. Most movingly, he visits the grave of a girl whose tomb has fallen into disrepair. The young girl wrote poetry and the mother had the poetry inscribed on the girl's tomb. But now it is abandoned and the poetry is fading away.

The celebrated artists will always live on, but the artists that never were will vanish along with their undiscovered art and that is the real tragedy of Forever. As the tour guide remarks, "Death is everywhere except at a cemetery. Here it has to be hidden. If we were to show the true nature of cemeteries, it would be unbearable."

The DVD includes an interview with Honigmann conducted by film critic John Anderson.

Jim was here.



Forever

Facts and Figures

Run time: 43 mins

In Theaters: Monday 22nd September 2014

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 8.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Heddy Honigmann

Producer: Carmen Cobos

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