Review: ‘Salvador Dalí: In Search of Immortality’ Plays It Safe And Neutral
Salvador Dalí. A name you immediately recognize and one that conjures up recollections of his striking surrealist work. His paintings stretch beyond the realm of reality and into the far reaches your wildest imagination, producing both images of amazement and nightmare. A man as well known and as eccentric as Dalí naturally makes for an interesting documentary subject, and as such, we have Salvador Dalí: In Search of Immortality. Created by the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, In Search of Immortality unpacks the rich life of Salvador Dalí and frames his legacy as lasting embodiment of the artist.
For someone as interesting as Dalí, it’s perplexing to see a documentary take such a passive approach. The film operates much like an audio guide you would get at a museum or a half hour segment on PBS: a very descriptive, archival depiction of a historical figure that doesn’t have any bias in what it presents, but which is thorough in its coverage. This could be in part because it was produced by the Foundation itself and their desire to maintain a pristine narrative, but just know going in, this is no Morgan Neville documentary with an angle it wants to present.
In Search of Immortality is told using a mix of interviews, live footage, photographs, readings from his autobiography, and voice over narration. It takes on a weird consistency with so many methods, never really sticking to one and blending them all in to pull from as many sources as possible. At times it can feel like the interviews are out of place while other times it can be the voice over or readings. This goes back to the PBS style of documenting in the film. It often feels more like an information dump than an inspired work.
Dalí’s entire life is chronicled from start to finish, though much of his art work is deemphasized in favor for his inspirations, his travels, and oddly enough, the houses he acquired throughout his life. The paintings themselves do not have a major role in the film, appearing briefly when brought up in discussion, and never take precedent over the man himself which is a little disappointing as someone who is interested in the finer details of his work, but it seems director David Pujol wanted to stay focused on the individual and the events in his life.
The importance of his wife Gala is a constant in the doc. Serving as his eternal muse and lover, she stands as the inspiration for a portion of Dalí’s work. In a similar position of influence is the locations that Dalí chose to create his work, most notably, his ever expanding home in Portlligat. The significance of these two influences means they make reoccurring appearances as we trace Dalí’s life. They are so significant and influential on Dalí’s work that they end up being the major take aways from the film at the end.
In Search of Immortality is well meaning documentary that aims to inform the viewer about the artist, his influences, and the events in his life. For those looking for something straightforward and informative, this will undoubtably satisfy, but don’t go in expecting a tell all doc with profound revelations.
Salvador Dalí: In Search of Immortality is playing at North West Film Forum from March 4th to March 7th.