Filled with twists and beautiful imagery and a deep metaphor for mental illness and suicide, The Forest of the Lost Souls is a rare gem of a film.
“The Sadness Will Last Forever” – Vincent Van Gogh’s last words
These harrowing words greet us as The Forest of the Lost Souls commences. The horror mystery comes from the mind of writer/director José Pedro Lopes and features the talent of Daniela Love, Jorge Mota, Mafalda Banquart.
The Portuguese film centers around a young and rebellious Carolina and an elderly father, Ricardo. Both very different in character yet are both within The Forest of the Lost Souls to take their lives. However, once they reach the end of their journey through the graveyard of suicide victims, it is revealed that one of them is holding a deadly and dark intention.
The appearance of the film itself matches its grim outlook with a completely black and white filter to block out any potential beauty within the flourishing forest. Said filter also creates greater contrasts between light and dark within night scenes, when the majority of the blood spills.
Dark, grungy music is played continuously throughout the film, adding suspense to already throat-gripping moments within the plot. When said music isn’t playing, Lopes uses the pure voices of birds and trees within the forest to add a profound emptiness in the scene.
Lopes emphasizes this emptiness using the actors and certain camera angles to make them appear tiny and isolated against the backdrop of the towering and grim forest.
A highlight of the film was the opening credits with a tiny and well-crafted version of the forest made from newspaper serving as the backdrop. A structure that would make Tim Burton proud, the newspaper trees appear like bony hands with a makeshift fog wandering through the eerie and creepy mini landscape, revealing the underlying nature of the true Forest of Lost Souls and Lopes’ signature dark artistry within his films.
(Warning: Plot spoilers ahead)
After murdering Ricardo before he can pass away from suicide, Caroline then continues to murder Ricardo’s daughter, Filipa and wife, both of whom are already grieving the loss of their sister/daughter, Irene, who also committed suicide.
Caroline is essentially a metaphor for suicide and mental illness and the damage it does to the victim and their loved ones, as she lurks in the background and initiates the sadness and depression victim’s family go through along with the guilt. Caroline also manages to navigate the family home like a ghost, carrying on unnoticed like suicidal thoughts and mental illness.
Each family member is killed with the same knife that Caroline killed Ricardo with, allowing for the connection that they all died as a reaction to the first death. Caroline, however, is not met without a fight. Filipa fights back against her, a final battle against her mental illness, until she is killed via gunshot wound.
Another direct link to the ways of mental illness is how Caroline returns to normal after collecting her victims, attending a music festival and taking smiley pictures, making a friendly phone call to her father before returning home to her family.
This is suicide/mental illness personified. For the victims, life is violent and sorrowful. But to the rest of the world, everything is happy and normal.