by Danick Trouwloon
In the last week of September and the first of October Utrecht hosted the Nederlands Film Festival, during which I saw Love Eternal. The film is based on the Japanese novel Loving the Dead by Kei Oishi and directed by Irish director Brendon Muldowney. The film runs the risk of having a limited audience because of its special theme, yet it is in itself a cinematographic accomplishment.
Ian Harding (Robert de Hoog) considers himself a defective human being, convinced he was born human only by accident. His father’s death and a schoolmate’s suicide lead to a fascination with self-killing that causes him to withdraw from social life. After his mother kills herself he tries to pull the plug on his own life, but another family is committing suicide on the same day at the same place. Here, Ian starts a complicated relationship with the dead. Through relationships with people who can no longer respond to him, Ian finds his first friendship with a living human being – Naomi (Pollyana McIntosh) who lost her son in a car accident.
In the 97-minute film the director keeps an impressive amount of suspense by combining limited dialogue and Ian’s psychotic acts. For the viewer this means a complete detachment from daily life; all that exists is the Irish coastline and the woods, the young man and death. Robert de Hoog is as convincing an Ian as one could hope him to be, and Tom Comerford’s filming of the beautiful setting creates a film that is as real as it is magical.
The other strength of the film is its music. Never have sounds been so suiting and so startling, and never have they been so perfect for death. Composer Bart Westerlaken’s creations are what take the movie to a whole new level.
Still, this is a movie about death and a person who can only exist in relation to death. If you’re not the type to sit through countless suicides, this isn’t a movie for you. Though, if you do decide to watch the film and after 40 minutes still have no clue what is going on, hold on. The film is an achievement for the production and the viewers. Those who sit through the rather gruesome first half will later find a tender story about a young man who’s alive but not quite living.
Love Eternal is a delicate movie, for the eyes, the ears and the heart. With the wonderful filming of a beautiful setting and spectacular acting, you will find that the movie doesn’t hit one wrong note. In the end it is an occasionally disturbing, but always beautiful portrayal of a young man coming to terms with death. Especially his own.