Film Screening: Letter from an Unknown Woman

On Saturday, 13 September, 2014 Gyaan Adab organized a screening and discussion of the film ‘Letter from an Unknown Woman’ directed by Max Ophuls (USA, 1948) which is based on the novella of the same name by Stefan Zweig. The film was introduced by Gayatri Chatterjee. Gayatri Chatterjee who is a film scholar based in Pune. She has taught and lectured widely in India, the USA and Europe. She is an external faculty at the Film & Television Institute of India. Her book ‘Awara’ (reissued by Penguin in 2003) won the President’s Gold medal (Swarna-Kamal) for the best book on cinema in 1992. Her book ‘Mother India’ (2002) belongs to the BFI film classics series of the British Film Institute. Gayatri’s articles have featured in several edited volumes published nationally and internationally.
The film ‘Letter from an Unknown Woman’ begins in the very beginning of the twentieth century, Vienna. The hero is the celebrated pianist Stephen Bard, quite decadent, not so much interested in music but only women. A young girl, Lisa has blossomed into womanhood secretly loving Stephen and bearing his child. But he has no idea of all this. One day he gets a letter from her, writing from her death bed. This is stuff a typical melodrama is made of. But on a close viewing we realize why Ophuls the great European master made it in Hollywood. It presents a commentary on the decline of the glory of the European civilization. At a closer look it is a commentary on war. Gayatri explained the analogies beautifully after the film was screened. She engaged the audience in a discussion and threw light on the nuances captured in the film which an untrained eye would easily miss.

Nityaasha Foundation