Roberta Rubenstein correctly views the Virginia Woolf of "The Hours" as troublingly exploited [Outlook, Jan. 26]. This is most clear when considering Ms. Woolf's watery suicide, which is portrayed as a lovely release at least twice in the film.

Though Ms. Woolf's well-documented mental illness certainly helped motivate the suicide, her diaries and other materials indicate that her fear of a Nazi invasion of England was a powerful motivator as well. Leonard Woolf was Jewish, and the couple feared the consequences.

Following the Nazi bombing of Holland and Belgium almost a year before Ms. Woolf's death, the couple obtained lethal doses of morphine to take in the event of an invasion. During the battle of Britain, their London home, as well as much of London, was destroyed.

I think the problematic relationship between Virginia Woolf the person and Virginia Woolf the character in "The Hours" is exemplified by the fact that the film does not mention Leonard Woolf's Jewishness, the Woolfs' fears, the Nazis or even World War II.


Takoma Park


My gratitude to Roberta Rubenstein for her comments regarding "The Hours." Both in her long life of sanity and her few episodes of madness, Virginia Woolf was intelligent and dynamically full of words.

Because of their sincerity, author Michael Cunningham and filmmaker Stephen Daldry may be forgiven. But their moping misinterpretation cannot be absolved.

And the artificial nose, however well intended, merely diminishes Nicole Kidman's good looks without coming anywhere near Virginia Woolf's classic elegance.