Directed by Frederick Wiseman (USA/France, 2002, 61 min.). 35mm.

The Last Letter (La derniére lettre) is based on a chapter of Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate. 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 of enemy lines. The letter, with its detailed observations of daily life in a ghetto, reveals the fear, courage, frailty, compassion and dignity of this woman as she reviews her life and faces her death.

“Lucidity, intelligence, humor, love. From start to finish, the best of the human spirit. A lesson in knowing how to live at the moment of dying. The Last Letter is also a documentary about the face of the actress Catherine Samie, a face like a landscape, in which Wiseman captures extraordinarily ordinary things: the weathered effects of misery (depression warnings), the sunniness of her features (I visited our garden one last time), or that intemperate moment when tears break forth. For the future, for those one loves, one hopes to find the strength to write a comparable letter oneself. In the meantime, thanks to Frederick Wiseman, who made us follow him, one is more than a little proud to have read this one.” –Gerard Lefort, Liberation

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