Forest of Bliss



Robert Gardner, 1986

Runtime: 90 minutes

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.

In 2001, the book entitled Making Forest of Bliss was published. And released summer 2008, a Special Edition DVD contains the film optimally re-mastered for sound and image from a new 35mm blow up, Looking at Forest of Bliss (a feature-length program with Robert Gardner and Stan Brakhage), and a photo gallery featuring still images and journal entries read by Robert Gardner.

distributed by Documentary Educational Resources