Forest of Bliss
Director: Robert Gardner
- 1987 Sundance Film Festival
“I have shaped the film so that it occupies the time between two sunrises. It stands as an exclusively visual statement resorting neither to voiced commentary nor subtitles. It is about people being and also dying. Of the multitude at work, at play and prayer, three individuals are seen in somewhat greater detail than others. The are: a healer of extraordinary geniality who attends pained and troubled people both in his modest home and above Manikarnika, the main cremation ground, and at the Durga temple late at night; the baleful and untouchable king of the cremation grounds who vigorously exercises his hereditary rights to sell sacred fire and grass to mourners; and an unusually conscientious priest who performs sacred rites at a small shrine he maintains near the Ganges. Seeing Forest of Bliss completed, I am quite certain that the animals, especially the dogs, have an importance I merely glimpsed as I was shooting, The dogs and, of course, the River.”
The place is Benares, the Indian holy city on the Ganges where millions go to cremates their dead. With a lyrically impressionistic beauty and paradoxical reticence, the images unfold mysteriously. A montage of apparently unrelated images gradually accrues meaning and shape, as the rituals of death and remembrance are revealed by a filmmaker who is in quiet but total control of his medium.