The documentary film “The Eternal Memory” takes an uncannily intimate look at a couple adapting their relationship to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, although the word “Alzheimer’s” is rarely mentioned throughout the film. This deliberate choice by director Maite Alberdi allows the viewer to experience the couple’s journey without explicitly labeling their struggles. Instead, the film focuses on the couple’s daily lives and their efforts to maintain connection and understanding.
The main subjects of the film are Paulina Urrutia and her husband, Augusto Góngora. Góngora, who sadly passed away after the completion of the film, was a former TV journalist in Chile who was involved in underground newscasts during the Pinochet dictatorship. Urrutia, on the other hand, is an actress who served as the culture minister during the first term of Chilean president Michelle Bachelet. Both Urrutia and Góngora have a deep involvement in storytelling and preserving collective memory, which adds a layer of reflexivity to their personal journey.
Throughout the film, Urrutia gently engages Góngora in conversations about their lives, constantly assessing his lucidity. The viewer witnesses the couple’s attempts to preserve their memories, even as Góngora’s condition deteriorates. Urrutia takes on the role of being a caregiver and asks Góngora questions, such as their first date, in order to gauge his recollection. It is revealed that their first date was not at either of their homes, contrary to his initial belief. This gentle quizzing serves as a poignant reminder of the impact of Alzheimer’s on personal memories and identities.
The film also explores the couple’s resilience in the face of adversity. Urrutia, who takes over the role of shooting the documentary herself due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remains remarkably composed throughout. There are moments of heartbreak, such as when she informs Góngora that he has failed to recognize her for an entire morning. However, these moments only serve to highlight the immense strength and compassion that Urrutia possesses.
It is important to note that while “The Eternal Memory” provides an intimate portrayal of the couple’s journey, it cannot fully capture the complexity and privacy of their relationship. Alzheimer’s is a deeply personal disease, and no film can completely encapsulate the individual experiences and emotions involved. Nevertheless, “The Eternal Memory” comes close to depicting the couple’s resilience and love amidst the challenges of Alzheimer’s.
In conclusion, “The Eternal Memory” is a moving and intimate documentary that explores the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on a couple’s relationship. By deliberately withholding the mention of Alzheimer’s, the film allows the audience to see the couple’s journey without adhering to preconceived notions associated with the disease. With moments of both joy and heartbreak, the film captures the profound resilience and love that Paulina Urrutia and Augusto Góngora share.