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THE SCARLET LETTER

Director: WIM WENDERS

W. GERMANY-SPAIN • 1973 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • 89 MIN


THIS LITTLE-SEEN ADAPTATION OF NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE’S CLASSIC NOVEL WAS ONE OF WENDERS’ MOST UNUSUAL PROJECTS. HE WASN’T ENTIRELY HAPPY WITH THE PRODUCTION AND VOWED NEVER AGAIN TO MAKE A PERIOD PIECE, BUT THE FILM REMAINS FASCINATING AND IS MUCH BETTER THAN WENDERS’ OWN ASSESSMENT OF IT.
The setting is 17th century New England, where Dr. Prynne (Hans Christian Blech) arrives to join his wife Hester (Senta Berger) and finds that for the past seven years she has been outcast from the community by the local Puritans. Required to display a scarlet ‘A’ for Adulteress on her dress and questioned annually, Hester still refuses to name the father of her child Pearl. Although impressed by Hester’s stoicism, Dr. Prynne becomes obsessed with proving that the troubled Pastor Dimmesdale (Lou Castel) is Pearl’s father. Both novel and film plead the cause of freedom against bigotry, but Wenders goes further than Hawthorne in his condemnation of both Dimmesdale and Puritanism. It turns out that his Scarlet Letter is in fact modelled on Nicholas Ray’s Freudian cult western Johnny Guitar.

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