Forest of Bliss

Director: Robert Gardner

Institute History

  • 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.

— Robert Gardner

Screening Details


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]