THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS
Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to the team at October Coast PR and Wild Eye Releasing for allowing me early access to an online screener of their upcoming theatrical release of the Portuguese, Drama/Horror/Mystery film “The Forest Of The Lost Souls”, Written and Directed by Jose Pedro Lopes. The Forest Of The Lost Souls is a black and white contemporary film about Portugal’s most dense and remote forest, a place most visit when they wish to end their lives. On this particular day, young emo teenager, Carolina (played by Daniela Love) crosses paths with aimless and depressed father, Ricardo (Jorge Mota). The pairs interaction ultimately becomes the catalyst behind a violent home invasion. The film also stars Mafalda Banquart, Ligia Roque and Tiago Jacome.
Lost Souls is the debut feature-length film from young director, Lopes and it’s certainly a stylish inception. The topical themes of grief and suicide make for a good foundation for the drama, and that’s usually where The Forest is its strongest. Francisco Lobo’s stunning black and white photography provides film-noir fans with a sense of true visual extravagance, most notably with the way the natural light peers through the trees and bounces off the land. The forest itself is gorgeous, with its very own remote lake adjoined. There’s some lovely shot choices and nice gentle movements as we, the audience, accompany Carolina and Ricardo through the forest as they discuss what has led them to the loneliest place on earth. Emmanuel Gracio’s score is an atmospheric one, drawing on ambient bass and synth tones in order to give the forest itself an other worldly somber feeling. The audio track is loud and clear too. The performances are solid right across the board, Mota conveys Ricardo’s hesitation and indecisiveness well, and Love brings an enticing quality to Carolina’s mysterious persona of a drifter. Mafalda Banquart completes the core trio of performers and develops an innocence to Filipa, Ricardo’s teenage daughter.
The Forest Of The Lost Souls is a film of two halves. The first being a slow burn, melancholy character piece, albeit methodical with its approach to encapsulating that anguish. The second half plays more like a stalker-based thriller, just without any real thrills. There’s a tonal shift that’s likely to throw viewers off, and perhaps Jose’s film might have been better suited to a different setup, or an alternative second act and climax. While most of Lobo’s 4K cinematography (maybe even 5K) is high in production value, there are a few odd framing decisions and some brief lens flutters when the film moves to its internal setting at the house. Regarding plot points, it wasn’t all that difficult to predict that Ricardo was going to be the father of the girl in the beginning (Lilia Lopes). There’s a glaringly obvious continuity error in how a certain character could be downstairs carrying out an act of violence, and then within the space of thirty seconds, be upstairs hiding in a room (and in that particular place of all places *rolls eyes*). I think I would’ve got behind the shift in narrative a bit more had there actually be a motive for the characters actions, or something that would potentially reveal itself to be of importance as the third act rolled on, alas. It’s not like Lopes didn’t have avenues to formulate that either. Said character may have held a connection with the girl at the centre of it all, but if she did, it wasn’t an obvious one.
The Forest Of The Lost Souls is a polished and professional feature-length debut from Portuguese native, Jose Lopes. It’s akin to something like “True Love Ways” with its black and white presentation, and the script is reminiscent of the little known indie “The Sea Of Trees” or even “The Forest”. The cinematography is classy, the audio and sound design are extremely moody and the performances are consistently good. The subject matter surely hits home for a lot of people who have suffered from, or are currently still suffering from depression. Lopes never quite takes the discussion far enough though, instead, opts to change direction and head for the main land by way of generic home invasion. I predicted a couple of the specifics, there’s one key continuity lapse and unfortunately one of the central characters motivations are never truly made clear. Now sometimes that creative license can suit a narrative even better, but other times it doesn’t, and this is unfortunately one of those times. Despite its shortcomings, there’s a lot to like about The Forest Of The Lost Souls and the speedy run time of just 70 minutes (including credits) prevents you from getting too bogged down in the nitty-gritty of it all. The film hits limited theatres in LA from August 3rd, so keep an eye out for it. You can also check out the official trailer below!
My rating for “The Forest Of The Lost Souls” is 6.5/10