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Directed by José Pedro Lopes
Written by José Pedro Lopes
Starring Daniela Love, Jorge Mota, Mafalda Banquart, Lígia Roque, Lília Lopes, Tiago Jácome, Débora Ribeiro
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Soulful, playful, and full of some twisted angst, THE FOREST OF LOST SOULS isn’t exactly the existential look at our place in the world and what it would be like if we weren’t in it that it claims to be in the beginning. What unfolds is twisted, amusing, and sometimes downright beautiful.

An elder man (Jorge Mota) meets a teenage girl named Carolina (Daniela Love) while venturing into a forest that lures those looking to commit suicide into its heavily treed paths. Both are set on committing suicide, but as the two talk, the man seems ill equipped to carry it out. That’s ok, though, because Carolina knows all about suicide and is more than willing to give the man some pointers. What happens next is unexpected, and pretty shocking.

This arthouse film from Portugal might push some straight laced viewers away as it is filmed in black and white and tends to be on the more conversational side rather than relying on huge scares and big action. That said, the way this film deals with the subject of suicide is interesting. In an almost flippant way, the film really does get into the nitty gritty of what can lead one to suicide, as well as why someone might decide to back out of it. Filmmaker Jose Pedro Lopes’ almost flippant tone might not work for all. In many ways, it deals with suicide in a way HEATHERS and BEETLEJUICE did—ridiculing it by making it seem so preposterous. While a Hollywood film would never broach such a subject in such a manner, it’s kind of refreshing to see how much this film disregards sensitivity and relies more on unemotional sense while dealing with this subject.

There’s some artsy-fartsyness going on in this one, but I found it entertaining from front to back despite all of that. The acting and the script are fantastic here with Love being the true standout of the piece as Carolina, the carefree, chain-smoking goth chick with a fascination with death. Clocking in only at about an hour and six minutes, the film still manages to feel drawn out in the latter half. But by then, I was transfixed with the way Lopes lures one in with some witty dialog and gorgeous looking scenery through the forest and the Portugese countryside. While it reminded me a bit of last year’s EYES OF MY MOTHER with the black and white palette and the shuffling of main characters, the tone is surprisingly much more light and bitter all at once. THE FOREST OF LOST SOULS would be heartbreaking if not for the fact that it views death in such a nonchalant manner. This may come off as irresponsible to some, but in this day and age, a little cynicism about the futility of life itself is downright refreshing.

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