Director: Elliott Hasler
Producer: Dave Hasler
Music: by Jamie and Doug Scarratt
Costume: by Vicky Standing
Executive Producer: Simon Hasler
Written by Elliott Hasler
Actors: Elliott Hasler, Alice Rogers, David Aitchison, Luigi Patti, Mike Skinner, Pete Walsh
Charlie’s Letters, written and directed by Elliott Hasler, while still 17, demonstrates what can be achieved with minimal budget but substantial talent. This feature length film tells the story of Charlie, Elliott’s Grandfather and was filmed across five countries and, unsurprisingly, took three years to complete. Charlie served with the Royal Hampshire Regiment in Tunisia in the Second World War. Captured subsequent to the Battle of Sidi Nsir we follow Charlie as he escapes, evades capture, works with the resistance while being supported by local peasants all the time struggling to get home. Initially the story is told through letters exchanged with his wife, living back in Brighton. But increasingly, as the letters diminish his love and their child have only the letters already received to return to again and again.
The wartime action is brilliantly conveyed through close focus, hand held camera and swift changes of angle conveying fear, action, chaos, blood and brutality. Additional use of Sepia, half-negative images, use of seasonal changes, and low exposure lend atmosphere and authority to the action.
The film is naturalistic and low-key performances add realism and depth to the unfolding story. An extraordinary achievement both in terms of location filming, accuracy of costume (Vicky Standing), props and vehicles. There is an earthy reality to the product a genuine and un-sanitised piece of storytelling that is always going to work as it is based on events and stories handed down to a family. Certainly there is “adventure” in the classic film tradition but this is not what drives the film or, ultimately, gives it its success. That comes from the story of one-man’s-war while struggling to get home, while his wife is shown experiencing all the conflicts of the woman left behind, raising a child, resisting predatory men, always wondering in a very every day way what has happened. Brilliantly, the home-coming itself is anti-climatic. One day, or less, of celebration then letters are put away in a tin and life goes on. Brutal in its truthful post-war portrayal. There is a final poignant scene which rounds off the art very nicely.
Elliott Hasler will be certain to find his footing in a long and illustrious career.