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Letter from an Unknown Woman

Max Ophüls / US, 1948 / 87 min.

Max Ophüls (1902-1957) is well known for his stylish cinematography and bittersweet irony, a source of inspiration for numerous filmmakers, from Stanley Kubrick to Paul Thomas Anderson. Letter from an Unknown Woman is regarded as one of the highlights of his Hollywood period. 4K restoration.

Letter from an unknown woman poster

After the Reichstag fire in 1933, the German-Jewish Max Ophüls fled to France, where he embarked on a film career that would lead him to the Netherlands and the United States. Ophüls brought his characteristic flowing camera style and a taste of the old Vienna to Hollywood for Letter from an Unknown Woman, a tragic story about unrequited love. Based on Stefan Zweig‘s novella of the same name ('Brief einer Unbekannten') published in 1922.

‘When you read this letter I will be dead.' It is the start of a journey into the past of an ‘unknown woman’, an captivating performance by Joan Fontaine. Lisa has been in love with concert pianist Stefan all her life, but he doesn’t even know who she is. What began as a childhood crush has turned into a real obsession.

Too European

Ophüls’ striking cinematography, richly detailed plot and visual repetitions made the film ‘too European’ in the eyes of Universal Studio, and the film was only released on a limited scale. Nowadays, Letter from an Unknown Woman is hailed as a masterpiece of melodrama and considered a textbook example of the point-of-view-shot.

Letter from an Unknown Woman was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1992 as one of the films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. 4K restoration by Paramount and Ignite Films.



Max Ophüls

Production year




Original title

Letter from an Unknown Woman


87 min.







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