“The Eternal Memory” (“La memoria infinita”)
Metacritic (8/10), Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10), TMDB.com (4/5)
It’s been said that one of the most cherished hopes for a loving relationship is that its partners inevitably have someone with whom they can grow old together, a time when they can warmly look back on their time as a couple with fondness and treasured memories. But what happens when something occurs that threatens to steal those precious recollections? That’s one of the tragedies that can come with various forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, a condition that seriously endangered the long-term loving partnership of renowned Chilean author/journalist Augusto Góngora and his wife, actress and former Minister of Culture Paulina Urrutia. But, rather than seeking seclusion in the wake of that diagnosis, Góngora insisted on making his story public, telling the tale of his condition and the diligent, compassionate efforts of Urrutia in acting as his caregiver, particularly in helping him hold on to his memory as fully and as long as possible. Their story is sensitively recounted in writer-director Maite Alberdi’s moving documentary, a film that will simultaneously warm and break your heart. In telling their tale, this title explores the importance of preserving one’s memories as a measure of one’s identity and accomplishments, both personally and professionally. In Góngora’s case, that involves the depth of his love for his wife, family and friends, as well as the critical role he played in making the Chilean public aware of the grotesque atrocities that unfolded in the wake of the country’s 1973 coup d’etat and the restoration of the nation’s cultural and artistic heritage after its return to democracy with the ouster of the Pinochet regime in 1990. Those recollections, in his view, represent a depth of courage that’s to be preserved and not lost to the ravages of time and illness. This Oscar nominee for best documentary feature and its designation as one of 2023’s top documentaries by the National Board of Review is a striking piece of filmmaking, one that’s sure to touch virtually anyone who watches it (but be sure to keep those hankies handy). When we consider what can potentially be lost under circumstances like these, any efforts made to prevent that are truly heroic steps to be commended, and this film does an outstanding job at making that known, both in this case and as a practice to be employed whenever comparable conditions arise.