Letter From an Unknown Woman

Brief einer Unbekannten
Vienna around 1900: Lisa has loved the pianist Stefan Brand ever since her childhood. As a young woman she gets involved with the man-about-town. What is fulfilment to her is to him but a brief affaire. She doesn’t tell him that she is pregnant. When Lisa, who is long since married, meets Stefan again, he doesn’t recognise the woman who still loves him … With this filming of a Stefan Zweig novella, Ophüls follows on from his last film in Germany. As in Liebelei (from a play by Arthur Schnitzler, 1933) and with the same cameraman – Franz Planer – he creates “his” Vienna with sophisticated tracking shots and panning, and embellishes it with his own memento, an all women orchestra intoned by Strauss, and a night visit to a snow-covered Prater. “If Max Opuls would be shipwrecked on a South Sea Island, he would surely create his private and very personal illusion of Vienna. Of Vienna we don’t know, never knew, but which we like.” (Pem [Paul Markus], 1951) So this is not only one of the best and most important films made by Ophüls in exile, but also – censorship and studio demands notwithstanding – one of this most personal, too.
by Max Ophüls
with Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, Mady Christians
USA 1948 87’