I’ve had this DVD from Netflix for awhile and I finally watched Letter from an Unknown Woman the other night. It’s a Chinese film based off of the short story with the same name, which was written by Stephan Zweig, an Austrian author, in 1922. This story also inspired an older film from the 1940’s and I would like to watch that to compare all three, I just need to track it down.
Letter from an Unknown Woman is about a writer who receives a letter from an unknown woman on his birthday. The letter details her love for him, starting when she was a young girl and continuing through the years. She details their brief, but meaningful (to her) encounters at a few points throughout the years, but states that each time they met each other, he didn’t remember her from before. This is about all I can say about the film without giving away too many details and spoiling the plot, but if you don’t mind being spoiled, there is a more detailed and much better synopsis on Wikipedia.
This film moves at a slow pace and has more of an art film feel to it, but I thought that it fit the storyline so well and a faster paced movie would have taken some of the emotion out of the story. This was an incredibly beautiful film and I enjoyed it greatly. I liked watching the woman’s life unfold throughout the years, including the few encounters she had with the writer. The only critique I have is that I didn’t feel any chemistry between the woman and the writer when they were together. I also didn’t understand why she was so infatuated with the man that her infatuation continued from her childhood to her adult life, although I felt that way while reading the short story as well.
After watching the movie I found a copy of the short story online and read that. I loved the story and thought that the movie followed the story closely. At some points while reading the story I could hear the woman from the movie saying the lines. The movie differed from the story in terms of what was added. The movie expanded on the woman’s life so that we could see what she was doing between her encounters with the writer and it was set against historical events from China, although those events were secondary to the rest of the film and just allowed certain plot points to move forward.
As I said, I greatly enjoyed this movie but I know that it’s not for everyone. If you enjoy a movie that is slower paced but thrives on the emotion behind the story and the storyline itself, I highly recommend this film.