In The Eternal Memory, Maite Alberdi puts memory front and centre in more ways than one. She reflects on journalist Augusto Góngora’s work documenting the dictatorship in Chile from the 1970s to the 90s, bringing that historical memory back to a new generation; and she follows Augusto and his wife, actress Paulina Urrutia’s, relationship as they deal with his Alzheimer’s, which causes him to forget.
The film is compelling in its tender portrayal of humanity and the fragility of life that affects us all, especially as we approach old age, which Alberdi wants to normalise because it is a universal experience. I found it interesting, and admittedly emotional, to see someone who had accomplished so much in his country (and who, in strange irony, had worked to preserve history) have to rely on other people to let him know what was going on around him. It’s a state that personally scares me, but also makes me more convicted of the fact that our lives serve a bigger purpose. Augusto writes in the film, “those who have memory, have courage, and are Sowers,” invoking this imagery of planting, and perhaps planting seeds that we might never see in their full glory, but would be beneficial for the future generations.
Something else that struck me was the great love and care that Paulina had for Augusto. They are a jovial couple, with an interest in the arts, and there are many instances where it seems that Augusto does not fully remember their relationship, but he loves her nonetheless; like their love really is a connection of their souls. Paulina is patient and understanding, and maintains a sense of normalcy, integrating Augusto into her life by taking him to her rehearsals and having him sit and interact with the people around them. In my interview with Alberdi, I asked what she thought a society that loved each other in such a sacrificial way would look like, and she objected to the word ‘sacrifice’, saying that if everyone loved each other in this way, everyone would be taken care of and would not feel like they were sacrificing anything loving other people, which I thought was so beautiful. When there is an overflow of love, there is no loss in giving it to other people.
The Eternal Memory is now playing at HotDocs ’23. For more information, click here.