WHEN FOREVER DIES:
An epic myth 125 years in the making!
Movies have existed for more than 125 years. For every film you’ve seen, there are thousands that you missed. Forgotten classics. Hidden gems. Overlooked masterpieces. And many orphaned reels lost in dusty archives.
Imagine a brand-new feature film, sampling hundreds of movies you may never have had a chance to see. A cascade of found-footage imagery telling a compelling story of its own. Now imagine it with modern immersive sound design. A feature-length archival fiction.
When Forever Dies is a multilayered, mythical love story that’s surprisingly relevant to what is happening in the world today. It’s a film made of many films: silent movies, trick films, newsreels, propaganda, animation, advertising, striptease flicks, educational shorts—the list goes on. Believe it or not, all those bits and pieces together form a story with a beginning, middle and end, featuring recognizable characters you can believe in.
Behind the kaleidoscopic undertaking lies a universal message: How perception through the ages continually changes the way we make sense of the world.
When Forever Dies is the mythical tale of two lovers torn between light and shadow, told in a torrent of archival images. Across many times and places and just as many genres, we watch a gothic romance unfold between Forever Woman and Forever Man. Their lust for life is enchanting, but “happily ever after” always eludes them. Once the lovers strike a deal with the devil to make their wildest dreams come true, their fate turns, unleashing a battle of the sexes. As archetypes devolve into stereotypes and the One grows into the Other, the greatest of lovers become the fiercest of enemies. This is how love turns into hate. Will they ever find a way back?
When Forever Dies is an archival fiction film assembled from fragments of hundreds of largely forgotten movies, most of which are rarely seen today. Writer/director Peet Gelderblom joined forces with the prestigious Eye Filmmuseum and production company Tangerine Tree to repurpose a treasure trove of moving images into a genre-bending found-footage fantasia, 125 years in the making.
Silent movies, propaganda, animation, newsreels, advertising, trick films, burlesque, educational shorts and experimental cinema unearthed from dusty archival sources were painstakingly curated and cleverly re-mixed to create an immersive sensory experience. Held together by a compelling narrative, anonymous strips of celluloid were combined with nitrate prints of long-lost classics and given new meaning. Fully enveloping sound design was added to cast the vintage imagery - often color-tinted, sometimes degraded, but always gorgeous - in a different light.
The film features original music by Pieter Straatman, Kettel and Man After Midnight, classical pieces and an eclectic mix of existing tracks.
When Forever Dies is a film made of many films. Nearly the entire soundtrack has been created from scratch.
The oldest fragment is The Horse In Motion by photographer Eadweard Muybridge, shot in 1878 and arguably the oldest piece of cinema. The youngest fragment is the artfully rotoscoped pornography of Skelehellavision by experimental filmmaker Martha Colburn, completed in 2002.
Many shots and scenes are taken from the Bits & Pieces Collection: an ongoing series of compilations of unidentified film fragments from lost and forgotten movies, collected and preserved by Eye Filmmuseum. But also the seldom-seen classic stop-motion animation of Joop Geesink’s Dollywood is given a spot in the limelight.
When Forever Dies is a film in multiple aspect-ratios, changing shape from 4:3 Academy to Cinemascope in order to do justice to the original sources. Rolls of film that were traditionally color-tinted by hand have been meticulously scanned to bring out every hue.
This film, made of 125 years of film, is dedicated to all of the artists, producers and technicians before the lens and behind the scenes who gave cinema light and shadow. And to the archivists keeping the magic alive when movies are sometimes forgotten.
Archival footage is usually deployed to document the past: to create a time capsule of what once was and is no more. That’s the traditional approach and perfectly legitimate, but the vast creative possibilities that film archives offer are rarely explored in full.
For this particular project I was not interested in what Werner Herzog has called “the truth of accountants.” I don’t see these largely forgotten moving pictures as ancient relics, but as living things. In a recycled context, pieces of old film have the power to open doors of perception—at once timeless and relevant to our times.
The tools of the digital age allow filmmakers as myself to clash perspectives, combine wildly different sources in unexpected ways and overlay a contemporary point of view. When these antiquated images are used as building blocks for archival fiction or other experiments, they offer a vintage lens through which one can see the world of today more clearly.
In the age of sampling and recycling, it’s only logical to consider the potential of a circular cinema: a second chance for orphaned reels of film to find a new home. When Forever Dies is my attempt to take this concept as far as I could, but I never expected the end product to feel so personal.
As I dived into the archives, the archives also dived into me. I chose to work only with images that really spoke to me, and much to my surprise, the images I found demanded a discussion. What started out as my ode to cinema became a manifestation of all I hold dear and fear of losing, as alluring as it is distressing.
We need your help!
The film is almost finished! The premiere will take place at Imagine Film Festival in Amsterdam, but we need your help. We’re running short on budget for the final stages. This has been a hugely ambitious labour of love so far, made for next to nothing, but it’s high time to reward some people for their efforts.
Help us to get When Forever Dies to the finish line! We can use every dollar we can get. Follow us on Facebook and donate whatever you can afford. You won’t regret it!