The Eternal Memory
Oscar-nominated director Maite Alberdi’s The Eternal Memory follows the life of prominent Chilean couple Augusto Góngora and Paulina Urrutia as they come to terms with Augusto’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The documentary is tender, moving and full of heart. At first glance, it could be dismissed as a sad indictment of ageing, but it is so much more than that. The Eternal Memory is a beautiful love story, an ode to the power of emotion and an examination of what makes us human.
The film never feels like a sinister medical documentary; it shows ageing and, in this case, Alzheimer’s as part of the human experience. Whilst, of course, there are facets of Augusto’s disease that are heart-breaking, we are privileged enough as the audience to see moments of hope and light in this feature. Alberdi has previously stated that she felt this film was primarily a love story and that the aspect of the disease was simply a by-line of the plot. It would be right to share this idea because that is what the audience is given: an insight into two people, connected for 25 years, modifying their love but never letting it diminish.
Although first and foremost, a slow and detailed insight into the couple, there are further layers to this story: Alberdi gives a historical context that is just as poignant as the medical elements. Augusto was a famous journalist and documented huge moments in Chilean history, such as Pinochet’s dictatorship. These moments are compiled of footage of Augusto’s career on television and add context to his condition; whilst it is clear he is battling with his dementia, it is equally evident that the emotion of the dictatorship is set to be something he will never forget. In his novel, Góngora says, “We Chileans also need to rebuild our emotional memory.” Therefore, the choice to include this history is a message to the audience: a powerful reminder that although the past can be reimagined, emotions are permanent and will not be forgotten.
Góngora passed away in May and Urrutia now says that she sees this film as a gift – and it certainly is. We are gifted extremely intimate access into the lives of two great, creative minds and reminded of the importance of human connection. Urrutia is compassionate, infinitely patient and devoted to Góngora. The most beautiful aspect of this documentary is that, despite the challenges of dementia and Covid-19, the couple’s love remains impenetrable throughout.
The Eternal Memory is released in select cinemas on 10th November 2023.
Watch the trailer for The Eternal Memory here: