Letter From An Unknown Woman Analysis

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Letter from an Unknown Woman
CA 1 Style and Stardom
Mickaela Farrell 10296509

“…Legendary European director Max Ophüls ' deeply moving, timeless film, considered his greatest and most successful American film but a film, unlike most Hollywood films. …. It demonstrates his lyrical, gliding camera movements, long tracking shots, atmospheric melancholy and romantic dialogue…”

As a basis in the film we see the anonymous letter detailing the tragic fate of Lisa Berndl (Joan Fontaine) as being read by Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan) the letter and begins: “By the time you read this letter, I may be dead . . . If this reaches you, you will know how I became yours when you didn’t know who I was or even that I existed.” What is written in Lisa’s letter is then dramatized starting almost twenty years earlier, where the then young teenage Lisa developed an obsession with Stefan, the pianist who lived in an apartment just across from hers.

The film can be seen to contain abstruse patterns of repetitions and variations, motifs, echoes, themes and refrains. Like a musical score,
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A banal example of such imitation can be found when Stefan talks to the porter: “Who is it?” – “Brand” – “Good morning, Mr. Brand”, which happens three times. Other frequencies in dialogue function like motifs and variations. Stefan mentions numerous times that he hardly knows Lisa: “I know so little about you”; “I know almost nothing about you”. He suggests that Lisa knows him more than he knows himself: “How long have you been hiding in my piano?”; “You know far too much about me already”. Stefan’s memory is also a recurrent theme throughout the film: “I’ve seen you somewhere, I know”; “I’ve seen you before”. To us, those words appear like meaningless pick-up lines, however Stefan’s urgency implies an honest internal restlessness, hence adding to the intricacy of the
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