an old couple snuggles on a couch and looks at a magazine
Credit: Gene Siskel Film Center

In the remarkable documentary The Eternal Memory, director Maite Alberdi brings us one of the most heartfelt renditions of life, love, and memory in recent years of cinema.

One of Chile’s most famous journalists, Augusto Góngora, and Paulina Urrutia, an actress and former Chilean Minister of Culture, have been a couple for more than 20 years. Augusto’s work was critical in creating a lasting memory of the atrocities of the Pinochet regime, but eight years after Augusto is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s up to Paulina to help maintain his own memory of who he was and hopes to be. Though they struggle consistently with the effects of his disease, daily life is not just a series of trials and tribulations, but a joyful and comedic expression of love.

The Eternal Memory is a stunningly intimate film. It’s a visually impactful one, as well, with Paulina’s behind-the-camera framing setting up some truly beautiful moments. Alberdi provides us with access to the most personal moments of Augusto and Paulina’s daily life, interspersed with archival footage of their past joys and heartbreaks. This is a film about the importance of memory, the ways in which our shared remembrance of the past serves to shape our present and impact our future. It’s devastating at points, both in terms of what Augusto cannot recall, his increasing inability to remember who Paulina is as she patiently coaxes him out of his anger and confusion, and in his remembrance of friends lost in the violence of the dictatorial regime of decades past. But ultimately, the power of The Eternal Memory comes from leaving viewers with an overwhelming sense of the beauty of the lives, however brief, we share with others. 85 min.

Gene Siskel Film Center