“Sadness will last forever” is the quote that starts and closes The Forest of the Lost Souls (A Floresta das Alma Perdidas in its original Portuguese title), its meaning being that if sadness will consume our life forever, we might as well end it now.
Living by these words, Carolina, Daniela Love (Offline, Empress Of The Evil Dead), a teenage girl, spends her day in “the forest of the lost souls”, a vast forest known for being the chosen resting place of many people committing suicide.
Like the people who wandered here before her, she knows she wants to die, but isn’t entirely ready to take the plunge yet.
There among the trees, she meets Ricardo, Jorge Mota (Conta-me Historia, Santa Barbara (TV)), a middle-age man who just lost one of his two teenage daughters (played by Lília Lopes (Ramiro)) and left his family to end his life.
Such a premise could lead to a heartwarming story of two people connecting, building each other up and leaving suicidal thoughts behind to live a long and happy life.
But The Forest of the Lost Souls is, instead, a much more macabre story and turns into a quasi-slasher in which Carolina, like an angel of death, goes after Ricardo and his his wife Filipa, Mafalda Banquart (Santa Barbara (TV), Post-Mortem (Short)), his remaining daughter, Joana, Lígia Roque (Amor Maior (TV), Jardins Proibidos (TV)) and Tiago, Tiago Jácome (Video Store (Short)), his daughter’s boyfriend, to end their pain once and for all.
These acts of violence act both as a catharsis for Carolina, who oscillates between a truly sadistic character and one that just acts according to her own views on life and death, and as a representation of a cycle of pain.
Ricardo wants to commit suicide after his daughter’s death, and it is likely that his own passing will impact his family’s will to live. By going after them, Carolina only accelerates the process.
The Forest of the Lost Souls is divided into two parts, the divide represented by a beautiful shot of a broken bridge that takes all of the frame and ensures the transition from one side to the other near the middle of the film.
While the first half entirely takes place in the titular forest, with a gloomy atmosphere and two characters talking and walking around, the second half is much livelier, with more characters, more action and some changes of scenery.
The entire film is shot in black and white: this lack of color draws attention to the composition of the shots and gives the film a more polished look, but it doesn’t seem to have much more meaning than a pure esthetic choice.
In the end, it feels more like a gimmick or an attempt to create a macabre atmosphere rather than a deeply thought-out decision to serve the movie, and we end up aching to see the deep green of the forest or a more colorful contrast between the two parts of the film rather than the dull shades of grey.
In the end, The Forest of the Lost Souls also feels divided in two, between a common slasher and a melodrama. The two genres unfortunately never fit perfectly, but still mesh together well enough to create a compelling film about our inherent longing for death – a pessimist film, for sure, but one that also carries its own brand of optimism: by killing these people, the protagonist ends their sadness after all.