Review: The Eternal Memory


This documentary begins gently: a woman enters a bedroom where an elderly man lies sleeping. She calls, “Hello, hello, hello, hello,” and he stirs. Both laugh softly as he wakes. The old man knows who he is, but does not know her.

The scene changes and we see him as a young Chilean TV journalist, reporting on a change in government. Then back to the bedroom, where the woman gently reminds him of his career, his family, and that she is an actress. We see recordings of her performances, and her ascension to Cultural Minister of Chile. Finally, she reminds him that this bedroom is their bedroom, and that they are husband and wife.

And so we are introduced to Augusto and Pauli.

The filming of Augusto’s decline began after his diagnosis of Alzeimer’s in 2014. He wanted people to know what was happening to him – just as had chronicled what happened to other people as a journalist.

So we see his gradual disappearance, both physically and mentally. We also see the pain Pauli suffers as he recalls less and less of their lives together.

At one point, Pauli reminds Augusto that he acted in a movie by the Chilean director Ruiz. He played a dead man who was resurrected and faced himself as an older man. This was followed by a filmed conversation between Augusto and Ruiz, in which Augusto asks the director why he likes to bring back the dead in his movies. The director says because he likes to resurrect the dead (as a tool in story-telling). Augusto muses that sometimes in Chile the dead are not allowed to die. Specifically he is thinking of the “disappeared” (those murdered during the reign of US-supported dictator Augusto Pinochet) whose memory is not allowed to lie quiet in history. It is his work as a clandestine reporter of the atrocities of the Pinochet years, recordings of which they view on television, that re-awaken Augusto’s memories of that time, his friends, those lost, and the efforts he and others made to bring the truth into the light.

Another poignant moment, during the isolation of Covid, occurs on a rainy day when Pauli shows Augusto a large handsome photograph of a well dressed couple. She asks him who they are, but he cannot tell. It is the two them on their wedding day.

Throughout all of the years, chronicled here are Augusto’s love for Pauli, and his expressions of that love never fully disappeared. This is a very touching, loving, generous documentary of two people as they face the gradual loss of self in one person, and the endless care expressed by the other, who devoted her life to making his declining years as happy as possible.

Writer/director Maite Alberdi (“The Mole Agent”) has done superb work over almost a decade, capturing the changing facets of this wonderful relationship.

The film is in Spanish, with English subtitles.

Writer/ Director: Maite Alberdi
Producers: Rocio Jadue, Pablo Larrain, Juan de Dios Larrain, Maite Alberdi
Cinematographer: Pablo Valdez
Editor: Carolina Siraqyan
Music: Miguel Miranda, Jose Miguel Tobar
Runtime: One hour, 25 minutes
Availability: NYC on Aug. 11; LA on Aug. 18, Nationwide on Aug. 25

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