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  • Catherine Samie

    Catherine Samie

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The Film

It is 1941. A Ukrainian ghetto has fallen to the Nazis and all of its Jewish residents are slated to be murdered. In the midst of the impending horror, the town’s physician, a woman named Anna Semionova, dictates one final letter to her son, who is safe outside enemy lines. With a dramatic reading of this letter, veteran documentarian Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies, Central Park, Domestic Violence) presents his first dramatic feature: The Last Letter. Adapted from chapter 17 of Russian writer Vasily Grossman’s novel, Life and Fate, this deeply moving and breathtakingly simple film features an unforgettable performance by legendary French actress Catherine Samie, the senior member of the Comédie-Française. The Last Letter (La Dernière Lettre) is presented in French with English subtitles.

In The Last Letter, shot entirely in black and white, Samie, dressed in a plain black dress with a star stitched on it, writes a last letter to her son. The setting is strikingly minimal, a bare room with no props. The effect is startling: Samie’s visual evocation brings to life the people of the town as Anna struggles to understand her past knowing she is about to be killed. With its vivid and chilling observations of a lost time, The Last Letter reveals the dignity of one woman as she remembers her life and faces her death.

The Filmmaker

  1. Frederick WisemanProducer/Director