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Vanessa McMahon


Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)

 


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'EIGHTY LETTERS' at 52nd TIFF!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EIGHTY LETTERS (2011) by Czech director Václav Kadrnka is a day in the life of European bureaucracy in 1987 Czechoslovakia. While the mother of a fourteen year-old boy runs around town from one office to another, signing this paper and that, the boy joins her and watches with intrigue this dizzying official system of communist Eastern Europe. In one scene, the boy must run to the post office to get a stamp that is missing on the papers, this being one of the highest action scenes in the film; after all, it’s a day in the life of running, waiting, running, waiting bureaucracy. Where are they going to anyway? Well, the boy’s father has escaped to England and awaits them there. The mother fights for their escape and meets only one obstruction after another; but she says, ‘for every closed door, I will find an open one’.

The film is a slow pace but so is waiting for visas, and somewhere in the slowness we get a distinct feeling that things are moving; something IS happening, and fast. The boy is growing up, and all in this one day. He is confronted with hard realities which force him to come of age- the trying difficulties of escape from a then communist country to Western Europe, old age (the boy watches an old man eat an egg while patiently waiting in the official office), long bus rides to nowhere, the mother’s aging and toughened (but not broken) spirit, the drab colors of an average unsuccessful day, more waiting, more offices, lots of time to look through history books and black and white photos of a bygone era.

The mother works tirelessly to fight the system and join her husband- paperwork, new shoes, packing, even beginning nascent English lessons for her son. Are they finally leaving? No, we find out from a meeting with an English couple that the suitcase is for her husband, which she gives to the couple and they trade it for one from her husband to them. Mother and son read letters from his father on the bus through rural Czechoslovakia, panning on the countryside, which looks almost identical to the English countryside...The country they wish to escape to will look the same and yet it will be a whole new world.

The boy studies a book of maps and history and ‘Pangaea’ (symbolism for the world that was once united but now divided?). The film ends with the mother writing yet another letter, her 'eighty letters', to her husband; but as she says, ‘who knows how many more there will be?’ Will they ever make it to England?

 

written by Vanessa McMahon on Nov 18, 2011

OSMDESAT DOPISU (EIGHTY LETTERS) By VACLAV KADRNKA won Special Jury Award - Silver Alexander (10.000 euro) and the FIPRESCI Award at 52nd TIFF.

 

photo by Vanessa McMahon 

 Czech director Václav Kadrnka

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