Classic Movie Review: Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)


Title: Letter from an Unknown Woman
Release Date: April 28, 1948
Director: Max Ophüls
Production Company: Rampart Productions
Summary/Review:

Set in fin de siècle Vienna, this film begins with a concert pianist, Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan), receiving a letter from a unknown woman (clever, eh?).  Oh, but he should know here because she is Lisa Berndle (Joan Fontaine) who has loved him for years.  Lisa’s voice reads the letter which doubles as the film’s narration going back to when she was a teenager and Stefan moved into a neighboring apartment.  She falls for his music and then helplessly in love with him and keeps that flame going even when her mother remarries and they move to Linz.

Years later, Lisa finally meets Stefan and they have a romantic night that results in her pregnancy.  Stefan disappears and Lisa eventually marries another man who agrees to raise her son.  When Lisa and Stefan finally meet again, he doesn’t remember her at all.  Oh, it is all so tragic.

There are things I like about this movie.  It’s beautiful filmed with the flowing camera movement that Max Ophüls would go on to use so well in Madame de…  The set design is also excellent. I really like the Vienna apartments that are all wound together and the use of snow on the ground is impressive. And I always like Fontaine as she is excellent at playing characters who are uncertain and anxious, yet determined (and also rather foolish in their selection of romantic interests).  But overall this movie is heavily melodramatic and rather boring.  I guess this story of unrequited love is just not for me.

Rating: **1/2

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