The Forest of the Lost Souls (A Floresta das Almas Perdidas) (2017)

In a forest known as a prime suicide location, two strangers come upon one another and their lives are deeply affected.

Writer and director by José Pedro Lopes creates a sort of dark fairytale and character study of suicidal people while taking the artsier route to his goal. The Forest of the Lost Souls takes this and becomes its own touching, entrancing, fascinating thing. The film is artsy yes, but it’s not overly so. The film creates an atmosphere and clear emotions in its darkness and its images. It’s a sort of contemplative look on depression, loneliness, suicide, and how people can sometimes connect through some of the darkest times of their lives.

The cast here puts in a group effort, with fantastic turns by Daniela Love as Carolina, Mafalda Banquart as Filipa, Ligia Roque as Joana, Jorge Mota as Ricardo, and all, giving performances that pull the viewer in and don’t let them go until the very end. The cast as a whole puts forth natural, nuanced work and manages to connect with the viewer on an emotional level even more than just the visual themselves. That connection helps drive the emotional impact of the film home. The film may not be all about their performances but they make sure to gently grab the spotlight and never let it go.

The Forest of the Lost Souls is a very visual film, yes like most films, but even more so than usual. Here the filmmaker creates an entire world in this forest with the help of the cinematography by Francisco Lobo and the film editing by Ana Almeida. Together they create image and a flow that lull the viewer and embraces them. The choice of using powerful black and white imagery befits the story and the emotions portrayed by the cast and carried by the story. The choice of black and white and of how the story flows helps elevate the feelings, the depression, the loneliness, and brings them to the viewer in a powerful manner putting them in their face but not aggressively. There is a great balance achieved here that many much more experienced filmmakers can never seem to find. Supporting and enhancing the visuals is the musical score by Emanuel Gracia. His work is beautiful, haunting, and fitting for the film and the emotions and images on the screen. The music has an inherent darkness that works with the dark fairytale feel, the sadness found throughout the film.

The Forest of the Lost Souls (A Floresta das Almas Perdidas) is a beautiful film that deals with a dark and oftentimes difficult subject. Filmmaker José Pedro Lopes shows a deep understanding of sadness, loneliness, depression, and the feelings that leads some people to suicide. His bringing of all of this to the screen is masterful and never exploitive, the story is carefully told with powerful images. The cast works within this with natural talent and nuances. This with the visuals and audio components leads to a contemplative and open look at suicide and depression, something too few can manage to bring to the screen.