Trigger warning for this film review: The Forest of the Lost Souls deals very heavily in suicide in many forms and it will be discussed in the review. If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, you can find all help numbers here. Please talk with someone; there is always someone there that can help. That being said, I got the chance to watch and review The Forest of the Lost Souls. The movie is deceiving, and I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
The Forest of the Lost Souls comes to us from Portugal with Portuguese being spoken with subtitles. It was written and directed by Jose Pedro Lopes and stars Daniela Love as Carolina, Jorge Mota as Ricardo, Mafalda Banquart as Filipa, and Ligia Roque as Joana. It also features appearances by Lilia Lopes, Tiago Jacome, and Debora Ribeiro.
The Forest of the Lost Souls is about a forest in Portugal that is famous, like Aokigahara in Japan, for being the place where people go to commit suicide. The movie was shot in black and white, giving it a surreal appearance. The movie opens with a young woman as she spends some time in the forest, enjoying the scenery, coming upon a victim and then finding a lake. She drinks a small bottle of liquid, walks into the lake and stands there until the poison finally takes her. It’s quiet and sad and such a contrast to the setting. The forest is beautiful, like a fairy tale.
After that intro, we find an older gentleman, Ricardo, as he goes through the forest to find his spot to end his life. He sits next to a large rock, pulls out the picture of his daughter and a knife and immediately gets yelled at by a woman named Carolina who’s sitting on top of the rock for taking her spot. Carolina is young and brash and prepared. She immediately makes fun of Ricardo for going Harikiri and offers to take him through the woods to look around first and make sure this is what he wants before going through with it. She has been to the woods many times, always changing her mind, and knows her way around.
Without giving anything away, it is after their trek through the forest, stumbling upon a body and finding the lake that Ricardo is searching for that things take a turn. It turns out that one of the duo isn’t what they say they are and someone is going to die, but not by self-infliction. Love and Mota are phenomenal and give just enough to make their performances believable and solid without becoming a caricatures.
While I do have complaints about just how much filler this movie had, it was artistic and beautiful. At just shy of 70 minutes, The Forest of Lost Souls could have easily been cut down to a short film with the same quietness, beauty and impact of a film that’s over an hour long. Most of this movie was watching an actor silently walk through a forest, and as beautiful as this place was, I found myself counting the minutes. But when the actors started talking, it was engaging. The soundtrack was also strangely beautiful and matched the tone of the film perfectly. The original score by Emanuel Gracia is almost childlike in a wonderland type of way.
While towards the end of the movie, everything felt rushed, and I don’t REALLY understand why it happened the way it did, this didn’t take away from the movie overall. It left me confused, but I still enjoyed the film. Overall, The Forest of the Lost Souls was a feat of artistic filmmaking and beautiful scenery, with a massive shift in the story’s tone halfway through. A good way to spend an hour.