'Forever': Cairo Review

Forever Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Foreverland Productions

Forever Still - H 2014

Superb performances and artful filmmaking make this minimalistic exercise quietly affecting

Margarita Manda's poetic drama concerns two lonely souls finding a connection

That not a single word is spoken in its first twenty minutes is indicative of the starkly stylized nature of Margarita Manda's literally quiet poetic feature about two lonely souls finding a connection. The story of a Greek train conductor who becomes desperately besotted with the woman who rides his train every day from Athens to the port city of Piraeus, Forever is cinematic minimalism at its most affecting. The film recently received its world premiere at the Cairo International Film Festival, with its helmer winning the Best Director award.

Shot in monochromatic colors to better showcase its desultory wintry setting, the virtually two-character film begins with lengthy, static scenes of Costa (Kostas Filppoglou) admiring Anna (Anna Mascha) from afar. Silently observing as she makes her daily commute to her job as a ferry boat ticket seller, he makes no attempt to reach out to her. When he finally does, his hangdog intensity and constantly looming presence proves more off-putting than endearing, especially when he promises, "I'll be waiting for you" when she finishes her workday.

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Suffering from an unspecified illness that requires treatments that prevent him from working, he has all the more time to dedicate himself to pursuing his obsession, which to the freaked-out Anna more closely resembles stalking. His overtures eventually become more blatant, including leaving on her doorstep a recording of his mythical description of the train tracks having been built over an ancient river.

It isn't until ten minutes before the film ends that Anna finally succumbs to his attentions, when she quietly informs him, "My name is Anna."

Although somewhat reminiscent of Brief Encounter, the film relies far more on ambient sound than dialogue, with the filmmaker filling the soundtrack with the noises of seagulls, ferry blasts, church bells and thunder.

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The approach is perhaps a little too restrained for its own good, with Costa remaining an enigmatic figure who at times does indeed seem slightly creepy. More effective is the portrayal of Anna, who's seen quietly going about her daily activities, including eating dinners alone in her apartment.

But the proceedings are anchored by the filmmakers' rigorous approach, as well as the wonderfully subtle underplaying by the two leads whose characters have little to say, but whose eyes speak volumes.

Production: Heretic Creative Producers, Faliro House
Cast: Anna Mascha, Kostas Filppoglou
Director/screenwriter: Margarita Manda
Producers: Kostas Kefalas, Konstantinos Kontovrakis, Costas Lambropoulos, Margarita Manda
Director of photography: Kostis Ghikas
Editor: Angela Despotidou
Costume designer: Triada Papadaki

No rating, 82 min.