When Vacek gets up in the morning his mother has already left the house. He runs after her and accompanies her the whole day long while she gets together all the papers needed to apply for an exit visa. Mother and son want to go to the UK to reunite with the father who has emigrated there ahead of them. Excerpts from letters from the mother to the father spoken off-screen give insights into the family history and testify to the close bond between the parents. Václav Kdrnka’s film has autobiographic features and is very precisely placed in time: it takes place on March 29, 1987, in Czechoslovakia. The colors, interior décor and locations have been chosen with a fine feeling for detail and convey a real sense of the atmosphere at the time. Yet Osmdesát dopisů is no run-of-the-mill history film aimed at teaching lessons about the past. Thanks to an extraordinary sense of framing, scene detail and timing, the film conveys very powerfully what it is to be at the mercy of bureaucracy. But it goes beyond this to provide a very sensitive portrait of two people on the brink of a departure with an uncertain outcome, and all the insecurities and losses this entails. And this combination of historical precision and personal experience makes it a work of art.
by Václav Kadrnka
with Zuzana Lapcíkova, Martin Pavlus