Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: Eternity – Tran Anh Hung’s plot-free family saga muses on life’s joy and sorrow

If you’re willing to set aside any desire for a streamlined, conventional narrative, this series of vignettes of the life of an aristocratic family is a sensual delight that will cast a spell on you

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 4:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 4:30pm

3.5/5 stars

It’s hard to think of a more ironic title than Eternity for Vietnamese-French auteur Tran Anh Hung’s sixth feature, which muses on various stages of human life through a plotless and sometimes dialogue-free procession of births and deaths and all the basking in gentle sunlight in between. Put aside your longing for a streamlined, conventional narrative, however, and Tran’s exquisite tone poem could yet prove to be one of the most beautifully poignant films you’ll come across in some time.

Adapted from Alice Ferney’s novel L’Elegance des veuves, Eternity offers a series of vignettes from several decades in the life of one aristocratic family, portrayed by an enviable French cast and a gigantic roster of child actors. While it focuses primarily on three women – matriarch Valentine (Audrey Tautou), her daughter-in-law Mathilde (Mélanie Laurent), and Mathilde’s cousin Gabrielle (Bérénice Bejo) – the film is less about characters than such universal emotions as the joy of marriage and parenthood, and the grief at yet another funeral.

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The constant voice-over commentary by the director’s wife, Tran Nu Yen-Khe, who starred in four of Tran’s five previous films (the exception being the Japanese-speaking Norwegian Wood), adds a fatalistic sheen to the proceedings.

Combine that with a well-chosen classical music score and the visually entrancing cinematography by Mark Lee Ping-bin (who previously shot The Vertical Ray of the Sun and Norwegian Wood), and Tran has come up with a sensual delight that would cast a spell on any willing audience.

Eternity opens on March 16

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