Letters To Max


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Letters To Max
"This is a film based upon letter carrying as an act of politics, a text where Mcluhan's "medium is the message" becomes circular."

You may never have the pleasure of an introduction to a film as charmingly metatextual as that afforded to the audience who saw Letters To Max at Glasgow's 2015 Film Festival. Taking as its form a letter, with contributions from the audience, and stickers, it set the stage for what amounts to a psychogeographic essay film, an epistolary Westphalian conceit.

Preceded by a playful welcome that featured contributions from Google Maps on smartphone and the silhouette of l'Ecosse in the masthead of new Scottish newspaper The National, it discussed the letter as a form more credibly than, say, Fred Saberhagen and James V. Hart's (Francis Ford Coppola's) Bram Stoker's Dracula: The Novelisation.

Copy picture

The titular Max is Maxim Gvinjia, one-time Minister for Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia. As Max puts it, "this is a new country it isn't in your system yet". Film-maker Eric Baudelaire wrote to him, and then there were phone calls. Essaying into an episodic interview, this is a film based upon letter carrying as an act of politics, a text where Mcluhan's "medium is the message" becomes circular.

This is one of William Gibson's differently distributed futures, an exercise in what it means to have a history, to be a place - there is smoking on aeroplanes, an ersatz street-corner IKEA, a digressive spiralling through iconographies of states unborn, of puppet shows, press conferences, parades of brutalist green vehicles, infinitely bemedalled apparatchiks, the multi-wheeled Transport Erector Launchers of surface to air missiles, cities with more than one name. "Children drink separatist milk", and Pepsi, and landscapes of pipework rust around ubiquitous Mercedes saloons.

Back when your reviewer was engaged in strictly mechanistic undergraduate literary analysis there was some focus on the quantity of interpretations supported as a measure of artfulness and by that crude gauge Letters To Max is rich. There are fresh printed banners on scaffold around decaying office facades, the army carrying gift bags at a reception, Bushido and 1992 and "want[ing] to return to nostalgia". Jack Womack wrote an immediately post-Soviet great Russian novel called Let's Put The Future Behind Us but that was fiction and this is, well, something else.

Baudelaire's film explores not only identity, nationality, but film itself, communication, in part its own 'making of', in other places the act of making, in yet others the act of making places... Letters To Max addresses itself to a variety of subjects, but in the end is as much about its creator as its eponymous recipient, and all the stronger for it.

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2015
Share this with others on...
The story of the contested state of Abkhazia told though an exchange of letters between the filmmaker and its Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Amazon link

Director: Eric Baudelaire

Year: 2014

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: France

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Letter Tape
The One Man Village
Plot Point