Filmmakers have lately been drawn to the concept of the “suicide forest” — some quiet spot in the wilderness where the depressed go to end it all. These woods have been the backdrop for everything from experimental art pieces to ghost stories; and now there’s Portuguese writer-director José Pedro Lopes’ “The Forest of Lost Souls,” which starts deep in the shadows and tall trees, then takes an unexpected turn.
After a haunting prologue, Lopes introduces Ricardo Alves (Jorge Mota), who comes to the woods intent on killing himself. Then Alves meets Carolina (Daniela Love), a sarcastic hipster who listens to his story and cruelly mocks him.
Anything else about what happens would spoil the surprises Lopes has in store. Suffice to say that at about the halfway point (of a very short running time), the film’s scope widens to include Alves’ family, while also revealing that Carolina hasn’t been honest about who she is.
“The Forest of Lost Souls” is a bit of a puzzle, which some viewers might find too much trouble to solve — especially given that in the middle it becomes shockingly violent. But the black-and-white images are lovely to look at, and whatever’s true or untrue about the characters, they’re all clearly alienated.
In a way, this movie is like a tone-poem, tracing the contours of people so sick of themselves that they yearn for total erasure.
‘The Forest of Lost Souls’
In Portuguese with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills