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Intimate Love Letters, Read Aloud

Jan 22, 2019 | 831 videos
Video by Tara Fallaux via HALAL Films

“Dear Noortje: Why, I sometimes wonder, do so many love letters start with ‘I meant to write sooner,’ or ‘I should write to you more often,’ or a more fanciful variation of the same?” reads a young man in Tara Fallaux’s short film. “Maybe because people are lazy and, in their daily lives, easily find an excuse for that laziness,” the man ventures, “while it’s harder to justify on paper. Maybe the reason is deeper.”

Those reasons and more are explored in the exquisite documentary Love Letters, from the Amsterdam-based production company HALAL Films. Fallaux trains the camera on various couples as they read each other heartfelt letters and openly discuss their relationship. We also hear from single people, who read letters they wrote to ex-lovers while reflecting on the trials and tribulations of these life-changing relationships. Love Letters is an intimate rumination on the project of love—and, ultimately, the virtues of vulnerability.

Fallaux got the idea for the film after receiving an unexpected love letter from a longtime friend. After considering it, the filmmaker decided to store the note in a box full of other important letters she’d previously received. “I realized what a treasure box it was,” Fallaux told The Atlantic. “It was a lifetime of stories, shared thoughts, feelings, and events I had forgotten about. While reading them, the letters brought me right back, almost like time-traveling.”

She began research on the film, only to quickly realize that finding subjects would be more difficult than she had anticipated. “Most of the people I spoke to loved the idea, and were happy to share their stories with me,” Fallaux said. “However, hardly anyone dared to participate in the film. Too intimate, too painful, too naked.” Eventually, the filmmaker found participants who were willing to step out of their comfort zone and appear on camera. According to Fallaux, the subjects that appear in the film “strongly believe in encouraging people to be more open in expressing their feelings and insecurities.”

“I was afraid my heart would be broken,” a young woman in the film offers her boyfriend, by way of explanation for her initial reticence about the relationship. “I was afraid that someone would get to know everything I don’t accept about myself.”

Another man reads a letter in which he struggles to find words to encompass his feelings for his ex-girlfriend. “Where did it go wrong?” the letter to the ex reads. “I don’t know. I’m unable to write to you because I still don’t know what to say. I’m afraid I won’t do justice to you, or to myself. To our time together.”

To illustrate how she feels about love letters herself, Fallaux quotes one of the young men from the documentary, who says that writing a love letter is akin to sharing a diary. “It’s something extremely personal,” Fallaux said. “Something that leaves you exposed. I think everyone has a need to be heard and noticed, so receiving a letter feels very precious. And it appeals to the senses. You can feel the paper, smell the ink, enjoy someone’s handwriting. And you can save it. The letter becomes an extension of the writer, capturing a particular moment in time that the receiver can keep forever.”

“Making this film,” she added, “is my ode to the strength of vulnerability.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.