FilmStruck Friday: The Seventh Veil (1945)

Talented pianist Francesca Cunningham (Ann Todd) has been placed under the case of Dr. Larsen (Herbert Lom) after a failed suicide attempt. In order to discover what led the young woman to become suicidal, the doctor applies the controversial tactic of hypnosis, questioning Francesca about her past.

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(Image via IMDb)

As Francesca recounts hidden memories under Dr. Larsen’s spell, a complicated relationship with her cousin Nicholas (James Mason) is revealed, as well as the story of Francesca’s ascent to musical fame.

The Seventh Veil was directed by Compton Bennett. The story and screenplay were penned by husband-and-wife team Muriel and Sydney Box, who won an Academy Award for best original screenplay.

Despite the involvement of hypnotism in the plot, The Seventh Veil is less of a spooky thriller and more of a melodrama. It’s a tale of ambition and the perils that can come along with it… which is, in some ways, even more interesting. The psychological aspects that I hoped the film would explore (going into it knowing very little aside from the title and FilmStruck’s brief description) are all present despite the lack of chills.

Ann Todd’s character of Francesca has musical aspirations and is a talented pianist, but she’s tempted to give all of that up for her beau, Peter. Unfortunately, James Mason’s “Nicholas” is a stern and oppressive guardian, choosing ambition over happiness for Francesca, breaking up her relationship and taking control of both her career and her life.

Francesca herself describes the guardianship best: “Why ask me? You usually settle things without consulting me.” Nick tells her she’s free to go and do as she pleases, but is she really, through all of his manipulations?

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(Image via Classic Movie Favorites)

Ann Todd gives a stunning performance in her role, especially in the scenes showing her under hypnosis. Herbert Lom also offers a strong supporting performance as her hypnotizer, Dr. Larsen. Though Todd is the undeniable anchor of the film, there are really no weak links, performance-wise. James Mason rounds out the praise-worthy roster in his dramatic, somewhat sinister role.

The Seventh Veil is not one to be missed by fans of British dramas. Catch it streaming now in the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck.

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