Letters is a motion picture that is the result of a correspondence and collaboration of two film-makers living in two different parts of the world. It is a lyrical, slow-paced documentary that illustrates that our lives and we are not so different after all.

Documentary films often are made on the editing table, and this absolutely applies to Marte Vold and Jéro Yun’s film entitled Letters. They did not meet while shooting their film, but launched the project with a clear concept. They agreed on documenting nearly every moment of their lives for a certain period of time while also sending several letters to each other. They basically became pen pals, and they only saw each other’s material after they had finished filming. There were even times when they were not in touch and had no idea what the other was doing, which was probably a bit odd as they imagined their film as a series of correspondence edited together.

Still, what they ended up with is a very personal, lyrical film that has no filter and provides a voyeuristic look into the everyday life of two people living in Norway and South Korea. The film shows parallel universes comprised of the same actions from waking up to going to bed. To be completely honest, nothing special is happening in the film, still, it is a pure joy to follow and be with both the Norwegian Marte and the South Korean Yun. They turn the mundane into extraordinary with a hint of personal touch and brave storytelling; they share the very intimate moments of their lives and let the camera convey their emotions. They dare to expose themselves and be vulnerable humans on screen.

The popular cliché that is life is a journey, not a destination definitely sums the film Letters up very well. It is indeed a journey the audience can come along to explore the basic elements of human life. While keeping their eyes on the screen, viewers can experience the joy and sadness the protagonists feel and can also reflect on their own, sometimes rather mundane, lives. They are encouraged not to be ashamed of recognising themselves in the situations but fully be present in every moment of their lives. In today’s world, this might be the greatest challenge for all – not to look back to the past or into the future, but respect themselves and others enough to focus on the present and be in the moment. So they can be part of a crowd of enthusiastic parents watching children playing football in Norway or can be grieving with a son who just lost her mum in South Korea. It does not matter where the scenes take them, space becomes irrelevant and easily forgettable, and what is left is a harmonic sequence of familiar images piling up in front of their eyes.

Letters is the result of the partnership of two film-makers who were succeeded in demonstrating life at its core is the same for all. Marte Vold and Jéro Yun’s film does two main things: it lets the directors take a moment and ponder on their lives and creates an opportunity for the viewers to stop and look at their own lives. It hands over a mirror to the audience members, and that serves as a safety net when the mundane gets unbearable and pushes them towards the edge. It has the power to give them support to assure them they are not alone and to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This review is in the March issue of Cinema Scandinavia. 

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  • Directed by Marte Vold & Jero Yun
  • Produced by Maria Ekerhovd & Elisa Fernanda Pirir for Mer Film
Barbara Majsa

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.