Ladies Of Letters Imdb
Ladies Of Letters Imdb – Letter from an Unknown Woman is a 1948 American romantic drama film released by Universal-International and directed by Max Ophüls (listed as Max Opuls in the opening credits sequence). It was based on the novel of the same name by Stefan Zweig. The film stars Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, Mady Christians and Marcel Journet (actor) [fr].
In 1992, Letter from an Unknown Woman was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Ladies Of Letters Imdb
In July 2021, the film was screened in the Cannes Classics section of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
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At the beginning of the 20th century, Vina, Lisa (Joan Fontaine), a woman living in an apartment building, becomes fascinated by a new concert pianist Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan). Stefan is making a name for himself through energetic performances. Lisa becomes obsessed with Stefan, she stays up late to list the game to him, she sneaks into his apartment and admires him from a distance. Despite her actions, they only meet once and Stefan pays little attention to her.
One day, Lisa’s mother (Mady Christians) announces her marriage to a wealthy and respectable gentleman who lives in Linz and tells Lisa that they will all move there. Resisting her mother’s plans, Lisa flees the train station and returns to her apartment, where the doorman lets her in. She knocks on Stefan’s door, but no one answers. She decides to wait outside for him to return. Early the next morning, Stefan returns home with another woman. After seeing the two, a distraught Lisa travels to Linz, where she joins her mother and her new stepfather.
In Linz, she is transformed into a respectable woman and is courted by a young soldier from a good family. He finally proposes to Lisa, but she turns him down, saying that she is in love with someone else who lives in Vina and that she is willing to marry him. Confused and heartbroken, he accepts her situation. When they find out about Lisa’s actions, her mother and her stepfather demand to know why she didn’t accept her proposal. “I told him the truth,” Lisa replies.
Years later, Lisa distances herself from her role and works at Vina as a dress model. She waits outside Stefan’s window every night, hoping to be noticed. One night he notices her and, although he doesn’t recognize her, he feels strangely attracted to her. They have a long and romantic date that ends up making love. Soon after, Stefan leaves for a concert in Milan and promises to contact her soon, but he never does. Lisa finally gives birth to her child, never trying to contact Stefan, wanting to be “the only woman she’s ever known who doesn’t ask for anything”.
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T years later, Lisa is now married to an older man named Johann (Marcel Journet) who knows of her past love for Stefan, after whom he named his son. One day while at the opera, Lisa sees Stefan, who is no longer a prominent musician and rarely performs. Feeling uneasy, she leaves during the performance. He sees her go and follows her, and so they meet while she waits for her carriage. Stefan explains that he can’t quite place her, but he felt that they must have met before her. Lisa is still uncomfortable with this, she doesn’t want to anger her husband, and when she arrives in her carriage, she is met by a clearly upset Johann.
A few nights later and against her husband’s wishes, Lisa travels to Stefan’s apartment and he is delighted to see her. Despite a seemingly enlightening conversation about Stefan’s past life and his motivations for leaving music, Stefan still doesn’t recognize who Lisa really is. Distraught and realizing that Stefan never felt any love for her, Lisa leaves. Coming out of it, she meets the servant and the two exchange a long look. Some time later, after her son dies of typhus, Lisa is taken to a hospital and is seriously ill herself. She writes a letter to Stefan explaining her life, his son and her feelings towards him; the letter that narrates the entire film.
After Lisa dies, the letter is sent to Stefan, along with a card from the hospital staff announcing her death. In shock, Stefan thinks about the three times they met and he couldn’t recognize her. “Did you remember her?” he asks her servant. The maid nods and writes her full name, Lisa Berndle, on a piece of paper. Still in shock, Stefan walks out of her building and sees the ghostly image of a little Lisa open the door for him, the same way she once did when he first saw her all those years ago. Outside, a carriage waits to take him to meet a dueling opponent, Lisa’s husband, Johann. Finally, wanting to take responsibility for his actions, Stefan decides to participate in the duel.
The film was adapted from Stefan Zweig’s novel by screenwriter Howard Koch. There are divergences between the movie and the book. The book’s male lead is referred to simply (once) as ‘R’, and is a novelist rather than a musician. The film calls him Stefan Brand (referencing Zweig, who also names the protagonist’s young son after him, also unnamed in the original source material). The “unknown woman” is not named in the book; in the film she is called Lisa Berndle (a peculiarity of Ophüls is that the names of her female characters begin with an L). Fernand, a relative of Lisa’s mother and her real husband, becomes the completely oblivious “Mr. Kastner”, and the family moves to Linz instead of Innsbruck. John, the servant, keeps his name, but in the movie he is mute.
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The sexual content of the novel is quite implicit, but due to the audience, the film adaptation obscures it further. In the book, the “unknown woman” spends three nights with the writer (instead of one) before his departure. She meets him only one more time, many years later, at the opera, in which she promptly loses her lover in favor of spending a fourth night with the writer. At the end of this, she is humiliated when he mistakes her for a prostitute and runs off, never to see him again. The film adaptation splits them into two separate counters (first meeting him at the opera, then running humiliated from her house), and ignores another sexual counter.
Other divergences include a longer “first counter” between the two lovers (taking them through errands, fairs, and dance halls rather than just moving on to the long-awaited sexual counter), which reveals the disease that kills Stefan Jr. and Lisa is typhus. and ignore Lisa’s tradition of sending white roses every birthday for her. At the beginning of the novel, Brand has just turned 41 (and she forgot his birthday). This is significant because the white rose absce confirms Lisa’s death at the time of the reading.
The most significant divergence is a structural change: there is no duel in the original story, nor is there a character like Johann. The “unknown woman” of the book never marries, instead living by a series of lovers who remain anonymous and mostly discreet. Because of this, the protagonist’s actions did not offend anyone in particular. In the film, Brand is challenged to a duel, which he initially plans to abandon. The ending reveals that the contestant is Johann, who demands satisfaction for Lisa’s affair. Having read Lisa’s letter, Brand boldly agrees to the duel and enters it, his fate uncertain. This redemptive action has no literary equivalent. In fact, the literary equivalent of Brand can only vaguely remember Lisa after reading the letter, and there’s nothing significant beyond this.
Letter from an unknown woman is highly appreciated by today’s critics. Filmsite’s Tim Dirks has listed it among the 100 Greatest American Films of All Time, and the film has a 100% approval rating among 22 critics on Rott Tomatoes.
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The film rights were transferred from Universal to NTA (with Paramount being the current holder). The film first appeared on VHS tapes in 1988 under the Republic Pictures Home Video label. In 1992, it was released on laserdisc by Republic Pictures and The Criterion Collection, the latter containing an essay by Charles Dnis.
This edition was limited to 3,500 printed units and contains a new 4K video restoration, additional features such as audio commentary, video interviews and analysis, and the restoration of the Universal-International logo (it was cropped in previous versions), a booklet that Contains an essay by Molly Haskell and optional English subtitles.