Films: Eighty Letters

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Eighty Letters  {Osmdesá dopisu}

Eighty Letters
Osmdesá dopisu

Czech Republic, 2011, 75 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Biographical, Drama, Family Issues
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: Czech English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Václav Kadrnka
Producer: Václav Kadrnka
Editor: Pavel Kolaja
Screenwriter: Jirí Soukup, Václav Kadrnka
Cinematographer: Brano Pažitka
Principal Cast: Zuzana Lapcíková, Martin Pavluš

For the Czech director Václav Kadrnka, this contemplative study of one day in the life of a determined mother is an act of love and remembrance. When Kadrnka was 14 years old, he and his own mother experienced a similar ordeal, and he's never forgotten it: “The source of the film is basically my memories,” he explains, “and the surviving correspondence between my parents. It's a piece of my life, and I want to share it with others.”

Set on March 29, 1987—a time when Kadrnka's native Czechoslovakia was staggering through the last throes of Communist rule—Letters concentrates on the near-saintly patience of a woman (beautifully portrayed by Zuzana Lapciková) who might well represent all those who quietly resist the force of totalitarianism, just as one memorable Solzhenitsyn character stood in for hundreds of thousands of tormented Gulag inmates in A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

The underground heroine here doesn't sabotage a train or shoot an enemy officer. Instead, she trudges from one impersonal, gray office to another, trying to get permission for herself and her teenage son, Vašek (Martin Pavluš), to join her husband in Britain, where he defected a year earlier. The events and encounters of the film are not traditionally dramatic. The stone-faced Czech bureaucrats dither and obstruct; the woman persists—and during her tedious waits in anterooms and corridors, she writes love letters to her absent husband. In the solitude and near-silence of her quest, Kardnka reveals the bond between a mother and a son—and the depths of their resolve.

In Cooperation with Bohemian Productions

(Unsubtitled trailer)

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