“Eternity” has come to life, and we’re very pleased to announce it. With first the French premiere and, a week later, the Belgian release, this Belgian-French co-production and director’s Tran Anh Hung’s first French-language feature starring Audrey Tautou, Bérénice Bejo and Mélanie Laurent, is out there and available for anyone who wants to see this wonderful cinematographic work of craftmanship from a man who lost his heart at the movies.
Tran Anh Hung had come over from Paris to introduce his film to the audience at the Brussels premiere at the UGC theater. Thanking everyone for coming to see the movie (during an extremely hot mid-September evening), he explained some of the film’s background and insight, telling why “Eternity” is so very dear to him as a filmmaker: “I have never seen a film like this before in my life. I was very moved when I first read the book [by française Alice Ferney] and I knew it would not be easy to make this film, but it had great opportunities – psychologically, historically, with the many intrigues and the numerous details the story had to offer.” These are brought to life by Ping Bin Lee’s astonishing camerawork. Further he emphasized on the problem of making a film with virtually no dialogue; almost a half hour has elapsed before you hear the first conversation of only a few words. Throughout most of the film, the dialogue is replaced by the classical piano and the voiceover by his wife, Tran Nu Yên Khê, who’s basically telling the entire story (she’s an actress in most of his films, and when she’s not acting, she works with him behind the camera). That combination allows you to enjoy “Eternity” as it overwhelms you with a heartwarming glow of images and sound while following the leading characters’ paths of the circle of life which repeats itself time and again, with the joys of birth and the tragedies of death – a recurring topic in “Eternity.”
Looking through the camera lens almost with a trained eye of a painter, the film is a dignified and beautifully stylized family fresco about motherhood, picking up every detail from the superb acting of all actors involved, and in this case, it’s even pretty irrelevant if we don’t know who the leading characters really are, what they talk about, nor what the husbands do to support themselves and their families to guarantee their high standard of living. While the story begins in the late 1800s and ends at the beginning of this century, it covers five generations and keeps its focus on the first three, which is more than sufficient to have the full breathtaking two-hour story as it is now.
What Tran Anh Hung is trying to tell in “Eternity,” can be summarized into one word: eternity, hence the title. “The idea of eternity here is very simple: when a man and a woman meet and they fall in love, from the moment they have children, they will have this eternity,” he told me earlier. Not surprisingly, he dedicates this film to his two children.
“Eternity” is full of poignant images – good or bad, happy or unhappy, depending on the situation or what’s happening in the lives of the women and mothers at that particular moment – but, to me, one of the most beautiful scenes is the imaginary bike ride with a young Henri and Mathilde. It’s like poetry in motion, or film at its best.
UGC Theater, Brussels, Belgium
September 12, 2016
© Leo Verswijver