Letters to Father Jacob

Overview

A cold-blooded killer-cum-ex-convict finds grace and freedom from rage for the first time in her sad life in this gently wrought, subtle drama from Finnish director Klaus Härö. Murderer Leila feminist writer Kaarina Hazard experienced an overwhelming shock when the courts pardoned her following the first 12 years of a life sentence. At the suggestion of the prison warden, she ventures off to the modest, slightly dilapidated parsonage of a local cleric, elderly Father Jacob Heikki Nousiainen. Jacob is rapidly ...
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Overview

A cold-blooded killer-cum-ex-convict finds grace and freedom from rage for the first time in her sad life in this gently wrought, subtle drama from Finnish director Klaus Härö. Murderer Leila feminist writer Kaarina Hazard experienced an overwhelming shock when the courts pardoned her following the first 12 years of a life sentence. At the suggestion of the prison warden, she ventures off to the modest, slightly dilapidated parsonage of a local cleric, elderly Father Jacob Heikki Nousiainen. Jacob is rapidly losing his eyesight and therefore badly needs an assistant to help him compose letters to the parishioners who write to him and ask for his help. Leila perceives the letter-writing as silly and pointless, but humors the old man; in time, she finds the experience to be a source of nearly limitless personal renewal and spiritual redemption.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Writer-director Klaus Härö's profoundly moving Finnish-language drama Letters to Father Jacob observes a critical period for Leila feminist scribe Kaarina Hazard, a bullish, intimidating woman without any obvious signs of emotional vulnerability, who gets paroled from a life sentence in prison at the outset of the film. She's sent to assist a blind elderly minister, Father Jacob Heikki Nousiainen, in the Finnish countryside, and at his request, spends her days begrudgingly reading the letters he gets from parishioners, and penning responses for him. Though the events that put Leila behind bars aren't immediately apparent, they do emerge in the final act, setting the film up for a cathartic and devastating denouement as the emotionally tormented main character reaches a state of quiet grace. The film doesn't score any points for originality -- this is a tale told often enough that it could easily fall into the trappings of cliché -- but presentation is everything here, and what in coarser hands might seem hackneyed or cloying achieves incredible effectiveness via Härö's presentation. He is a minimalist at heart, prone to spare dialogue; quiet, telling gestures; and long, contemplative scenes. And he understands the value of restraint -- the film never tells us how shaken Leila is by Jacob's altruism she's so shocked that she initially views it with great skepticism. We can gauge her reactions to the clergyman's selflessness, and even feel some of the same jolts that she does, as, for example, a woman mails Jacob's life savings back to him, having used the borrowed money to escape from her abusive husband. The film never overplays its hand as it dramatizes the little shifts in Leila's behavior, such as her last-minute change of heart when she's right on the verge of spending money that she's stolen from Jacob, or her decision to go back and retrieve the letters of his that she has cruelly dumped into a nearby well. The conclusion is also admirably low-key; even after the event that brings Leila to inner peace and contentment which evokes the first real display of palpable emotion from her, we witness no declaration that she's about to become a saint or take over the parish, no difficult-to-swallow diatribes about how her life has changed -- not even any obvious shift in her demeanor, prone as she is to putting up an emotional guard. Härö realizes that any of this would be absurd. Letters also benefits from an inspired visual style. As shot by Tuomo Hutri, the dusky interiors of the clergyman's home and parish evoke the paintings of Johannes Vermeer, and the movie also makes fervent use of close-ups such as that of rain cascading onto a stack of letters that majestically draw out the beauty of banal life details. On an emotional level, Letters to Father Jacob exhibits some of the same delicate poignancy found in De Sica's early films, such as Umberto D. and The Children Are Watching Us, wrapped up in a comparable level of poetic understatement. It also exhibits profound degrees of wisdom and understanding about the inherent nature of spiritual redemption.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/8/2011
  • UPC: 887090027106
  • Original Release: 2009
  • Source: Olive Films
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Subtitled
  • Time: 1:15:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 25,843

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kaarina Hazard Leila
Heikki Nousiainen Father Jacob
Jukka Keinonen Posteljooni
Esko Roine Vankilan Johtaja
Technical Credits
Klaus Härö Director, Screenwriter
Samu Heikkila Editor
Tuomo Hutri Cinematographer
Lissa Juntunen Production Manager
Joonas Jyrala Sound Editor
Kaisa Makinen Art Director, Set Decoration/Design
Pia Mikkonen Makeup
Lasse Saarinen Producer
Kirka Sainio Sound/Sound Designer
Rimbo Salomaa Producer
Dani Stromback Score Composer
Sari Suominen Costumes/Costume Designer
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Letters to Father Jacob
1. Opening [:11]
2. The Letters [9:23]
3. Trust [12:59]
4. The Wedding [9:45]
5. Forsaken [8:12]
6. Heart Blossom [9:48]
7. Forgiveness [6:12]
8. Redemption [9:58]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Letters to Father Jacob
   Play
   Chapters
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