The Scarlet Letter (2006)

for piano solo, 100 minutes


Instrumentation: piano



Performer: Andrew E Simpson, piano (live performance, National Gallery of Art)


Film synopsis and musical notes:

A beautiful setting of Hawthorne's novel, this 1926 MGM film, starring Lillian Gish as Hester Prynne and Lars Hanson as the Reverend Dimmesdale, "The Scarlet Letter" proves powerful and moving throughout. 


Whereas in many of Sjöström's films focus on nature as an implacable force, in "The Scarlet Letter," the implacable force is man's intolerance, bigotry, and narrow, inflexible piety.  Hester, a married woman shunned by the community (as was the Girl from the Marsh Croft) for bearing a child out of wedlock to the Rev. Dimmesdale (his identity as father is unknown to his admiring parishoners), nobly refuses to identify her lover to preserve his social standing.  Hester's husband, long thought lost, returns unexpectedly to discover her child, and torments the pair of lovers to the film's end.  Plans to board a ship for Europe on the film's final day are thwarted as Dimmesdale at last publicly announces his sin, and dies in Hester's arms.


--Andrew Earle Simpson

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