Forest of Bliss is intended as an unsparing but ultimately redeeming account of the inevitable griefs and frequent happinesses that punctuate daily life in Benares, one of the world’s most holy cities. The film unfolds from one sunrise to the next without commentary, subtitles or dialogue. It is an attempt to give anyone who sees it a wholly authentic though greatly magnified view of the matters of life and death that are portrayed.
Of the multitude at work, at play and at prayer, three indivividuals are seen in somewhat greater detail than others. They are a healer of great geniality who attends the pained and troubled, a baleful and untouchable King of the Great Cremation Ground who sells the sacred fire, and an unusually conscientious priest who keeps a small shrine on the banks of the Ganges.
Seeing Forest of Bliss completed, I am quite certain that the animals, especially the dogs, have an importance I merely glimpsed while I was filming. The dogs and, of course, the river. —Robert Gardner
Robert Gardner (born November 5, 1925 in Brookline, Massachusetts) was the Director of the Film Study Center at Harvard University from 1957 to 1997. He is known for his work in the field of visual anthropology. —Wikipedia
At first I felt uncomfortable about not having subtitles, but then it helped to establish an observer position. The movie is well-paced and concentrated; we were following their all-day struggle against flesh, dead or alive. I couldn't guess what's the rattling for: to subdue other sounds, like that of the dogs, maybe?
Harvard, Holy or Not: A despicable autocratic bourgeois technocratic glorification of the derangement of outrageous theocratic poverty -- god damn would-be God's eternal hoarding sociopathy.
Overviews of Film Forum’s partial retrospective. Also: Watch Forest of Bliss here, plus clips from Gardner’s interviews.
Also: Eames, Dragonslayer, Pianomania, The Other F Word and more.