There are only a handful of films about cruising that actually work: last year’s Stranger by the Lake is an example of a deliciously rare work of art that maintained its initial seduction throughout the entire film. The Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival presents us with Amor Eterno (Everlasting Love), a title that’s deliciously ironic considering its subject matter and all the dark deeds that go on in the woods.
Set in Barcelona, the film opens rather innocuously, men and women discussing how they flirt and what love feels like — “El amor si puede ser eterno, pero evoluziona” — before immediately shifting into a surreally uncomfortable realm (nude bodies, violence, and heavy synth included with purchase). It is with that shift that Marçal Forés establishes himself as a director readily willing to toy with audiences' expectations.
In Amor eterno, the cruising grounds are for everyone, be they queer men looking for sex, couples gathering in passionate encounters (potentially for the sake of exhibitionist thrills), or for the sake of just having one’s own personal space. The protagonists in this case are a student and teacher, who interact with pure professionalism in the classroom, but outside, well, as Sondheim once wrote, “Many things can happen in the woods.”
Forés indulges in long drawn-out takes, and two of the most riveting scenes establish the change in the relationship between these two best. The first is simply a shot of the two of them in a car together - the focus on our older gentlemen - in which they discuss the men they meet and find attractive. Following that, we’re treated to the first real sex scene, which unfolds inside a car in the night, allowing the audience to witness in the most voyeuristic fashion, as the camera pans in on them.
Admittedly, not a lot happens in these scenes, and they’re certainly more conservative about the sexuality than a film like Stranger by the Lake was, but they’re fascinating to witness, span nearly ten minutes together, and are essential to the characters and their narrative.
The false promise of everlasting love is broken though, as the relationship between these two goes south rather quickly (as it would have to within an appropriately 69-minute long movie), with the feeling of danger lurking around every corner. While Stranger was contained to its cruising location, Amor has its fair share of exploration outside of it, offering glimpses into character's lives outside of their sexuality. The decidedly sinister atmosphere stretches everywhere, and the youths that populate the woods especially instill discomfort.
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The youths seem to indulge in all sorts of strange traditions, and while the grand finale isn't difficult to foresee, the journey that both these kids and the teacher take to get there makes for a riveting watch. Amor eterno proves to be quite the enjoyable and thrilling drama, one that actually ends up being a little romantic in its own macabre way.
Amor eterno will be playing at Miami Beach Cinematheque on Saturday, April 25, at 9:15 p.m. as part of the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Tickets cost $13. Visit mglff.com.
Follow Juan Barquin on Twitter @woahitsjuanito