The relationship between film and literature has always been a rather fraught one. It’s very rare for a film to live up to the book it’s based on, let alone surpass it. Non-fiction probably fares best, but novels often get a rough ride. Adapting the written word to the big screen is a tricky business. Ruth Beckermann’s new film, The Dreamed Ones, takes the correspondence of two young lovers and translates it into almost hypnotic cinema.

Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan were two of the most prominent German-language poets trying to forge a life and love in the shadow of World War II. The two meet in Vienna in 1948, embarking on a correspondence and covert love affair which would last, on and off, for over two decades. Celan was a successful poet and a Jewish survivor of a labour camp. His parents perished in the Holocaust. Bachmann, just embarking on her poetry journey, is the daughter of a Nazi officer.

Their words are read by singer-songwriter Anja Plaschg (Soap&Skin) and stage actor Laurence Rupp. Filmed inside a beautifully austere room inside the Funkhaus in Vienna, the film largely focuses on the actors reading their correspondence. The clever twist is the relationship between the narrators. Both clearly affected by the tragic love affair, the camera follows them as they break between filming. The Dreamed Ones is compelling viewing. The letters are beautifully written, and they are brought to life in a way so that the emotions, conflicts and anger play-out in-front of your eyes.

The Dreamed Ones is in cinemas from Friday.