Dear John

An ‘A’, out of focus, on a pink background – the first letter of a journey that does not lead to ‘Z’, even if includes many letters: these are of a postal rather than an alphabetical nature. The letters exchanged connect two worlds, one lived in the USA and the other in Vienna. The signpost ‘A’ marks a house somewhere in America that was located by filmmaker Hans Scheugl using Google Street View, and it represents the unexpected rediscovery of a nearly forgotten friend named John. Scheugl could have started a new life with him in the USA, 50 years ago. “Dear John,” says Scheugl with a Viennese accent, as first snapshots of the city are seen and a streetcar ride destined for the Prater commences. The camera glides down streets through which sentences from John’s letters time and again drift. Reflections are everywhere. Dear John is a convoluted film of remembrance, a documentary reflection fantasy about an imaginary existence. Scheugl describes how he has forgotten John’s voice and remembers his body only vaguely – his memory is as blurry as the ‘A’ that stands for John’s current life at the outset of the film.

Scheugl poetically reconstructs the idea of a lost existence by means of multi-faceted correspondences, both written and visual. Random pictures of pubs today accompany stories about nights of youthful happiness, interjected by John’s invitations and reports of “breadless” or unprofitable art, memorable encounters, and his horror of being drafted into the army at the onset of the Vietnam War. Images from a short beefcake film, The Cyclist and the Werewolf, serve as a leitmotif and dreamlike counterpart to the Ghost Trains of the Prater. In the end, the film discovers another ‘A’ at the base of the amusement park’s Ferris wheel. Dear John describes a ring that cannot come full circle. The distance between the two lives remains unbridgeable, regardless how sensitively the two men approach one another. This is a moving film in every respect.
(Christoph Huber)
Translation: Eve Heller

Orig. Title
Dear John
42 min
Hans Scheugl
Orig. Language
Hans Scheugl
Concept & Realization
Hans Scheugl
Supported by
Innovative Film Austria
Available Formats
DCP 2K flat (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
5.1 surround
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
Digital File (prores, h264) (Distribution Copy)
Festivals (Selection)
Graz - Diagonale, Festival des österreichischen Films
Berlin - Intern. Filmfestspiele Berlinale - Forum
Bruxelles - Festival L´age d´or
Buenos Aires - Asterisco Festval Int de cine LGBTIQ
Hamburg - Dokumentarfilmwoche