Film Analysis: ‘The Eternal Memory’ Illustrates the Triumph of Love Over Alzheimer’s

by Gabriel Martinez
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The Eternal Memory Film Analysis

“The Eternal Memory” opens with a disoriented Augusto Góngora arising one morning, greeted softly by his spouse of over 20 years.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” he replies.

Directed by Maite Alberdi, this poignant documentary charts not merely one man’s mental descent due to Alzheimer’s, but transcends that narrative to explore a powerful love story and also addresses broader themes of collective memory within a nation.

Góngora, a distinguished journalist, writer, and television presenter, gained fame for chronicling the atrocities of General Augusto Pinochet’s regime in his native Chile. Alongside him is his wife, Paulina Urrutia, an accomplished actress and scholar. Together, they take center stage in “The Eternal Memory,” a film that provides an unflinching look at Góngora’s increasing disorientation and emotional unsteadiness.

The documentary offers an intimate perspective, venturing into the most private corners of their lives, including their bedroom and even their shower. The viewer observes Urrutia as she shaves her husband, dries him with a towel as one would a young child, and recites text to him during a leisurely stroll.

“I am here to help you recall who Augusto Góngora was,” she assures him.

In crafting this film, Alberdi compiled approximately 40 hours of material, further supplemented by an additional 20 hours of footage recorded by Urrutia during their moments alone. The director skillfully alternates timelines to portray Góngora as a once vibrant journalist and as a devoted father in home videos, wherein his white hair reverts to black and a mustache suddenly appears on his younger self.

“There’s something we share,” he informs his wife, later adding, “Something perplexing is happening here. Assist me.”

At the core of the narrative is Urrutia, epitomizing a compassionate and understanding partner. She grapples with the harsh reality of her husband’s progressive detachment but remains steadfast in her devotion.

“You are never alone, my love. Never,” she reassures him.

Their daily routines comprise rehearsing for Urrutia’s theatrical performance, exercising, observing celestial phenomena, impromptu dancing, and even revisiting their wedding video. Her relentless efforts aim to jog his memory, stimulate his cognition, and calm his emotional flare-ups.

A third element explored in the documentary is Chile’s collective memory. Although the weakest aspect of Alberdi’s work, it is nonetheless intriguing. The film attempts to correlate Góngora’s fading recollections with Chile’s mass amnesia concerning its traumatic past under Pinochet. While the connection may seem a bit forced, it is a commendable effort.

What makes the narrative more poignant is Góngora’s own premonition about memory loss. In a handwritten note to his wife inside one of his books, he inscribes, “Without memory, we are left disoriented, aimless.”

As Góngora struggles to remember even basic facts like their first date or whether he had children prior, he still manages to express gratitude. “You have enriched my life since the moment we met,” he declares.

Eventually, his deepest fear surfaces—the potential loss of his cherished book collection. “What if someone takes away my books?” he exclaims. “What is transpiring within me?”

“The Eternal Memory,” honored with the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, is an MTV Documentary Films release. Góngora passed away on May 19 at the age of 71. His lasting legacy is a touching narrative about the pursuit of a fulfilling life, the struggle for dignity amid mental deterioration, and above all, lessons on how to love and be loved in return.

The documentary is currently in theaters, unrated, and has a runtime of 84 minutes. It is in Spanish with English subtitles and has been awarded three out of four stars.

The review is by Mark Kennedy, who can be found at

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about The Eternal Memory Film Analysis

What is the central theme of the documentary “The Eternal Memory”?

The central theme of the documentary “The Eternal Memory” is multifaceted, encompassing love, Alzheimer’s Disease, and collective memory in Chile. It primarily focuses on Augusto Góngora’s descent into Alzheimer’s, while also exploring the resilience of love and the complexities of national memory.

Who are the main figures featured in “The Eternal Memory”?

The main figures featured in “The Eternal Memory” are Augusto Góngora, a Chilean journalist, author, and TV host, and his wife Paulina Urrutia, an actress and academic. The documentary intimately chronicles their lives as they grapple with Góngora’s progressing Alzheimer’s Disease.

What accolades has the film received?

The documentary was honored with the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year it was reviewed. It is currently in theaters, unrated, and has a runtime of 84 minutes. It has been awarded three out of four stars.

Does the documentary have a political or historical element?

Yes, the film attempts to connect Augusto Góngora’s deteriorating memory to Chile’s collective forgetting of its traumatic past, specifically the era of General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. While this aspect is considered the weakest link in the film, it adds a layer of societal and historical complexity.

What is the tone and style of the documentary?

The documentary adopts an intimate and poignant tone, offering a deeply personal look into Góngora and Urrutia’s lives. It is directed by Maite Alberdi and employs a mix of current footage, archival material, and private recordings to craft a layered narrative.

Where can the film be watched?

“The Eternal Memory” is an MTV Documentary Films release and, at the time of the review, is available in theaters. The film is in Spanish with English subtitles.

What emotional aspects does the film delve into?

The film delves into the emotional complexities of love and commitment in the face of debilitating mental illness. It captures intimate moments between the couple, ranging from daily routines to emotional breakdowns, painting a full picture of their enduring love.

More about The Eternal Memory Film Analysis

  • Sundance Film Festival Awards
  • Maite Alberdi Directorial Works
  • Alzheimer’s Disease: Understanding the Illness
  • Chilean History and Augusto Pinochet
  • MTV Documentary Films Catalogue

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1 comment

JohnSmith August 26, 2023 - 1:21 pm

Wow, just wow. This review goes deep. Alzheimer’s is such a complex subject, and adding love and politics into it is just genius.


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