“A Floresta das Almas Perdidas” (The Forest of Lost Souls) is directed by José Pedro Lopes and stars; Daniela Love, Jorge Mota and Mafalda Banquart. The story follows two people who randomly encounter one another in a remote forest. A place known in Portugal as The Forest of Lost Souls, where people go to end their lives. This young woman, and middle-aged man have come to this forest to end their sadness, and when they cross paths they form a unique connection.
When a film can blend an interesting plot with a creative story path, that merges an artistic vision and great performances with it, the result can be captivating. That is exactly what this one did as it feels like two different films in one. However, two different films that were certainly destined for one another. Two tonal paths that serve well on their own, while at the same time weaving multiple genres together seamlessly. As this film opens you are introduced to a pair of troubled individuals. Both with their own inner turmoil, dealing with their own reasons for being in the forest and wanting to end it all.
You follow these two characters of different ages, with different outlooks on life as they converse and walk through the forest. The dialogue was natural. It had a great flow between the two of them as they probe one another about their reasons for being where they are, why they want to end it all, and what life really means to different people. You gain insight to the characters and it provokes thought as to what hardships their lives must have dealt, leading them to where they both were on that bright summer morning.
The script was well-written and doesn’t try to get overly complex. Yet still delivers a strong impact that builds the needed intrigue. Something that was conveyed excellently in the performances. Daniela Love and Jorge Mota were both fantastic. This was a subtitled film for me, and at times it can be hard to capture the intended emotion of the performances given the language barriers. But both Love and Mota were able to portray what the script needed to resonate their character with me. They also both share a natural chemistry with one another that would come from two people randomly meeting. Even more so, two people from different generations, and opposing thoughts on life in general.
With all of these elements working in its favor the film progresses like an intriguing drama about life, sadness, and wanting to end the misery of one’s time on earth. Then, roughly halfway through, after a beautifully crafted scene, this movie turns its tone in an instant. A touching drama turns into a suddenly tense thriller, with strong elements of mystery and even horror. This tonal shift was fantastic and the impact is felt because of the more emotional framework the plot was fueled with. A film that was compelling, suddenly becomes riveting as you are dealt a wave of sudden unpredictability that was built with some amazingly subtle misdirection.
This film thrives on the unknown so without spoiling any of the impact this film will create, I will leave my thoughts on the story at that. But I will mention, that the refreshing story-telling, and film-making this one displays, as it begins with a more somber theme. It without question continues as the film shifts to that of foreboding, and methodical tension.
Something that was honestly refreshing to sit back and watch. A different take on story-telling, and a combining genres and tones to create something fresh and engaging. All the while still being able to implement a crisp artistic vision. Often, overly artistic films are unfortunately cases of ‘style over substance’ but that was not the case with this film. “The Forest of Lost Souls” is without question, substance with style.
The direction from José Pedro Lopes was brilliant. This was a black and white film and it worked perfectly for what this story needed. The forest settings would normally be a lush beautiful backdrop for a story-line. It absolutely was in this one as well, but in a completely different fashion. With the color pulled from what we all know to be a vibrant wooded backdrop, you can capture the cold, somber emotions of the people that go to this forest to end the pain of their lives. It was captured with a great blend of silent imagery to allow the film to immerse you into story. And was extremely effective in what it wanted to accomplish.
Lopes frames up the shots very well with a solid flow between silent pans, and more traditional camera techniques that all work effectively for when their used throughout the story. The camera movements later in the film were excellent. With little movement, and crawling pans that feel very methodical, they naturally increase the emotional impact as you watch.
Lopes’ direction, and the cinematography were clearly on the same page because this film was a delightfully entertaining blend of traditional story-telling and artistic themed film-making. It was also very efficiently edited. The run-time was around seventy-minutes and it tells more story, delivers more compelling characters, and weaves a variety of emotional elements, that many films could not pull off with a run-time twice as long.