P.S. (Post Scriptum)

Message in the Bottle

P.S. (POST SCRIPTUM) | Message in the Bottle

When was the last time you received a personal letter? Excluding Christmas, birthdays and overdue taxes, mine was such a long time ago that I cannot even remember the content of the letter. Perhaps I’ll find it again one day when deciding which old documents from forgotten boxes to archive or throw out. In the program P.S., various filmmakers grapple with similar questions that my future self might have. What textual or audiovisual material from the past counts as a letter? Or, how could it become a letter from past selves to future viewers?

In their creative reworkings of what departed people have left behind, the filmmakers find or create personal documents that guess at what forms the cinematic letter may take. Sharing a preference for analogue film and home footage, the films recreate gritty and intriguing pasts. Making the smiles from photographs stick in our memories and the phrasing of old letters, read out aloud, linger in our minds. The mix of media, interchanging found footage, smartphone videos, re-enactments and the like, could have easily become chaotic and nearly incomprehensible if it had not been for the human voices resonating throughout. 

These human voices all manifest themselves differently in each film. Bella (2020) takes the literal form of reading out actual found letters, telling the stories of a fractured Greek family from 1986-1987. The son, still a bold and fierce teenager in the film, grew up to become the producer of this film, a film that tries to offer the images that were missing from his mother’s letters. In the case of Correspondencia (2020), the archival material was already there, but the stories had yet to be told by two young filmmakers. In the face of smiling figures who are pulled out of oblivion by the two narrators, the last images of their family members become unintentional letters in and of themselves to their descendants.

Conventionally, letters are sent to a person that should open them in the future. However, Au-delà du vide (2020) does not adhere to modern convention and sends a love letter back to the past. The film shows the aching absence of departed lovers in the lives of those who had to stay. It tenderly accentuates what lingers on in the present and what parts of the deceased are still carried around by the ones who live, just like an old letter. This resonance of a loved one is not so easily found in Point and Line to Plane (2020). This short film is a desperate outcry that tries to find a lost person back in the void left behind. Searching for him in paintings, random facts and far-away cities, the protagonist, in a stream-of-consciousness, retraces what she shared with him in a desperate attempt to find him again. She never finds his voice, his body or his words. She does find something else in the cinematic letter to him that she herself has created.

 Reassembling voices, memories and people from nearly forgotten pasts, the filmmakers demonstrate that the cinematic letter is more than just a ritualized exchange of words, images and addresses. It becomes a plane for dialogue, where different temporalities and voices can meet and where they may exchange more than words alone. It becomes a place where people can find comfort, nestled between the traces that loved ones have left behind. A nest where we as viewers are allowed to stay for only a short period of time, just long enough to experience the intimate relation expressed and cherished through these films.

Mitchell van Vuren; recently graduated Media student; independent filmmaker; huge film snob. Spellbound by: Pulp Fiction, Endless Poetry and A Fistful of Dollars. General state of the spotless mind: Rebel without a Cause and In the Mood for Love.