Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Seventh Veil (1945)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Seventh Veil (1945, UK)

In Compton Bennett's compelling musical melodrama about uncovering the 'seven veils' of the human mind of a romantically-thwarted concert pianist:

  • the opening sequence set in a mental hospital - and the attempted suicide of hospitalized concert pianist Francesca Cunningham (Ann Todd), who jumped from a bridge to try and kill herself
  • the description of the psychological treatment of hypnosis to find the underlying reason for Francesca's suicidal tendencies and blocked psyche (regarding an obsession about her hands); her doctor, Dr. Larsen (Herbert Lom) explained the film's title: "At least it'll tell us the nature of the injury to her mind.... The surgeon doesn't operate without first taking off the patient's clothes. Nor do we with the mind. You know what, uh, Staple says: the human mind is like Salome at the beginning of her dance, hidden from the outside world by seven veils, veils of reserve, shyness, fear. Now with friends, the average person will drop first one veil, then another, maybe three or four altogether. With a lover, she will make it five, or even six, but never the seventh. Never, you see. The human mind likes to cover its nakedness too and keep its privacy itself. Salome drops her seventh veil of her own free will, but you will never get the human mind to do that, and that is why I use narcosis. Five minutes under narcosis and down comes the seventh veil. Then we can see what is actually going on behind. Then we can really help"
  • the many flashbacks, under hypnosis, when Francesca recalled her life - her tutelage when she was a minor by her second cousin - a controlling, Svengali-like, imperious musical teacher and guardian, an "Uncle" Nicholas (James Mason), who was crippled and walked with a cane; his jealousy and obsession with bolstering her musical career completely stifled her efforts to find romance with two other men: band musician-leader Peter Gay (Hugh McDermott) (who eventually married and was divorced), and painter-artist Maxwell Leyden (Albert Lieven)
  • the scene of Nicholas, who was angry at Francesca for announcing her intention to leave him and live with Maxwell; Nicholas lectured her as she played the second movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique (Sonata No. 8 for piano, Op 13 in C minor): "You are the one beautiful thing that's been in my life. I can't live without you. You must know that. I can't give you up. I won't give you up. You're a great artist! Great artists don't just happen. They have to be made, and I have made you. I spent ten years training you, mold you. You'll be my life's work. And now you want to throw it all away with a man who doesn't even want to marry you. Franchesca, listen to me! You can't stand up against me. You don't have the strength. You'll do as I say. I demand that you give up this man. I demand that you send him away...You belong to me. We must always be together. You know that, don't you? Promise you'll stay with me always! Promise! Very well, if that's the way you want it. Very well, if you won't play for me, you shan't play for anyone else ever again" - to spite her, he struck Francesca's hands with his cane as she played
  • the terrible fiery car crash after she fled with Max - Francesca's hands were horribly burned and bandaged, and she feared that she could never play again (the reason for her suicide attempt)
  • Dr. Larsen's discovery that a key piece of music in Francesca's life might conquer her fixation regarding her hands - Beethoven's Pathetique (recorded on a 78 rpm phonograph record) - it might unlock Francesca's problems and stimulate her to play and live again; under hypnosis, when she heard the recording and Dr. Larsen placed her hands on the piano keyboard, she began to play, but then was reminded of Nicholas' stern cruelty and stopped believing that she could play
  • the concluding scene of her cure (she was again heard playing the Beethoven piece in the upstairs) and Dr. Larsen's announcement to the three suitors in her life - assembled in the downstairs parlor: "Yes, I think I can promise you a complete cure. But, uh, you have to prepare yourself for a new Francesca. A new and a very different person....You see the past is over for her now, quite over. Her mind is clear and the clouds have been swept away. She's no longer afraid. Whether you will be entirely satisfied with the change in her, I don't know, but it might be wise not to expect too much...I'm trying to tell you she will want to be with the one she loves, or the one she's been happiest with, or the one she cannot do without, or the one she trusts"; Dr. Larsen said it would "hardly be fair" of him to tell them who she would choose
  • Francesca descended the stairs, and chose between the three men - she rushed through a double set of doors that opened into Nicholas' study and embraced him, as the film ended with a musical crescendo


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