Author Topic: Brief Encounter (1945)  (Read 3013 times)

Offline Antares

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Brief Encounter (1945)
« on: May 07, 2010, 03:03:52 AM »
Brief Encounter





Year: 1946
Film Studio: Cineguild Productions, G.C.F., Eagle-Lion Distributors
Genre: Romance, Classic, Drama
Length: 86 Min.

Director
David Lean (1908)

Writing
Noel Coward (1899)...Story By
David Lean (1908)...Screenwriter
Ronald Neame (1911)...Screenwriter
Anthony Havelock-Allan (1904)...Screenwriter

Producer
Noel Coward (1899)

Cinematographer
Robert Krasker (1913)

Music
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873)...Composer

Stars
Celia Johnson (1908) as Laura Jesson
Trevor Howard (1913) as Dr. Alec Harvey
Stanley Holloway (1890) as Albert Godby
Joyce Carey (1898) as Myrtle Bagot
Cyril Raymond (1897) as Fred Jesson
Everley Gregg (1903) as Dolly Messiter
Marjorie Mars (1903) as Mary Norton
Margaret Barton (1926) as Beryl Walters, Tea Room Assistant

Review
       There are two English actors for whom I will go out of my way to see their performances in any film they’ve made. The first is Robert Donat and the second is Celia Johnson. Each was a respected thespian in their time, but what they shared in common was their rather tenuous association with moving pictures. For Donat, it was a matter of his health that kept him from accepting many roles, while Johnson plied her trade most famously on the stage, and only rarely would she dabble in film projects. It’s truly sad, because she has been somewhat forgotten over time and her legacy is relatively unknown to film fans.
   
       One of her incomparable performances was that of the homemaker whose life is altered when a momentary inconvenience introduces her to a man with whom she will have a fleeting dalliance.  The film was Brief Encounter and was made by director David Lean at the end of the Second World War. For its time, the screenplay could be considered rather scandalous and I’ve often wondered how Lean got it past the British censors. When one thinks of British films and the rigid structure of English society at the time, it’s really quite amazing that the film was not only made, but was such a hit. The thought of a film chronicling an adulterous affair must have surely been the primary conversational piece at many a tea time in post war Britain, I must say.
   
       Laura Jesson (Johnson) is your atypical English housewife, loyal, dutiful and completely submerged, in what she herself would deem, her happy day-to-day existence. She has a loving, successful husband and two obedient children, dinner or bridge with friends and her one day away from her domicile shopping in the big city. Her routines never waver, yet Laura is happy. She has a good life and a roof over her head, extremely fortunate considering the plights of others in her homeland. But fate and bit of coal dust will forever change her outlook on what she’ll come to believe is her mundane lifestyle.
   
       On her weekly shopping trip to the city, she is awaiting the arrival of the train which shall transport her back to her safe haven, when suddenly, an express train flies by and in its turbulent wake, lodges a bit of coal dust in Laura’s eye. She enters the refreshment station on the platform, yet is unsuccessful at removing the irritant. Luckily for her, or maybe unlucky as we will find out, a doctor is inside the station awaiting his train home. He removes the bit of grit, Laura thanks him, and he leaves to catch his train. This brief ‘encounter’ will profoundly change both their lives as they will happen to meet each other again in the following two weeks. Their second meeting will be fleeting and made only in passing on the city street. But it is their third meeting that will forever bond them together.
   
       After placing her order at a crowded restaurant, she notices the doctor arriving and surmising that he will not have a place to sit, agrees to his request to join her at her table. Their conversation is friendly and innocuous, and through it, we find out that his name is Alec (Trevor Howard), a country physician who weekly ventures to the city to cover for another physician at the hospital. During their conversation, Laura tells Alec about her weekly trips to the city for shopping and to catch a film at the local theater. In a rather bold move, Alec asks her if she wouldn’t mind if he tagged along with her to the theater. At first Laura is somewhat taken aback by his brashness, but seeing no harm in it, she acquiesces. After the movie ends, they are hurrying back to the train station, where Alec again solicits an awkward query. Will Laura meet him again, same time the following week? At first she refuses, but suddenly she remembers the good time she had during their day together, and she relents. This momentary lapse in judgment will shake her inner being to the core, as over the next few weeks, she falls in love with Alec.
   
       I’ll go no further with the plot line as one has to view Brief Encounter on their own to understand its subliminal seduction. David Lean has made, what I consider, one of the most sensual films in cinematic history. If this film where to be made today, we would get all the lurid details of their affair, affixed with copious amounts of their sexual trysts. But being a product of its time, Lean has to instill in the film, the same desires that both of the lead characters are feeling, yet in the viewer’s mind. He accomplishes this by using a rather unique form of plot development. He starts the film with the final moments of Laura and Alec’s relationship, as they sit, once again in the refreshment station. They are anonymous to both the viewer and the other patrons of the refreshment station. Suddenly, a woman enters, recognizes Laura and plants herself at their table. A look of bewilderment appears on both Laura and Alec’s faces as a train whistle blows, and Alec must leave to catch his train. He grabs his coat, briefly places his hand on Laura’s shoulder and departs the station. A few fleeting moments pass by, and the endlessly chattering friend gets up to buy some chocolate at the counter. When she turns back towards the table, Laura is not there. Another moment passes and Laura re-enters the station, looking disheveled and faint. Her friend buys her a brandy to help her regain her composure. In time, we will understand through Laura’s own words, as she will narrate what had occurred in the previous weeks upon her chance meeting with Alec. Why the touch on the shoulder had sent her scurrying on to the platform, and why she would become so distraught that she needed the brandy. It is through her narration of the subsequent events that we are able to delve into Laura’s quandary with not only a bit of curiosity, but with the added desire to see the two of them together. This is truly a film that tears at the heartstrings of the viewer, yet subliminally sets in the viewer’s mind, the same kind of desire felt by the couple on screen. If you love a good romance story, there is none better than Brief Encounter.


Review Criterion
- The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
- Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
- Historically important film, considered a classic.
- An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
– A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
- Borderline viewable.
– A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
– Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
– A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
- A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2014, 05:18:29 PM by Antares »

Najemikon

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Re: Brief Encounter (1945)
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2010, 09:28:31 PM »
Great review. :thumbup:

Regards the comment about British censors, actually I've always seen our system, even retroactively, as fair. I can't think of ever hearing of an equivalent to American cinemas moral code or a case of a film being cut because of something socially unacceptable. Just think of how crippled Hitchcock felt on coming to America after the freedom of his time here (the stockings in The 39 Steps?).

Further, if you look at British cinema post-war in general, there are all sorts of undercurrents that tie in with the national conciousness. This country was irrevocably changed by that war; the Empire was breaking up, the class system with it. Not helped by all the Yank soldiers shagging all our women for the price of a pair of nylons!  :whistle:

As way of a more pertinent example, think of "Upstairs" "Downstairs". The working class servants, would never, under any circumstances, fraternise with their employers. But post-war? No such distinction, possibly because money was less of a barrier as the upper classes no longer had any!

I suppose what you could say is that there was still a healthy appearance of pride and public indignation at such scandal, but really, it was happening a heck of a lot and deep down, everyone secretly wished they could join in!

I think a bigger shock to national sensibilities was a few years later when a thing called a "Teenager" appeared, pretty much invented by films like Billy Liar. The BBFC was allowing through films that attacked the very foundations of British culture by giving a voice to a new generation that really didn't give a crap about tradition.

So you see British censors have always allowed, even encouraged, films that challenge and therefore ironically champion, what it means to be British.

Offline Antares

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Re: Brief Encounter (1945)
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2010, 09:39:40 PM »
I hope that more than a few members here decide to take the plunge and seek this film out. It is one of the greatest films of all time, and I feel that a few people here would be pleasantly surprised by it.

Offline Antares

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Re: Brief Encounter (1945)
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2010, 09:43:50 PM »
Not helped by all the Yank soldiers shagging all our women for the price of a pair of nylons!  :whistle:

Could it be that the Pre-War English woman was tired of the stiff upper lip doctrine in British society, and wanted some below the belt to be more calcified?  :hmmmm: :tease: :laugh:

Najemikon

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Re: Brief Encounter (1945)
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2010, 09:54:48 PM »
I hope that more than a few members here decide to take the plunge and seek this film out. It is one of the greatest films of all time, and I feel that a few people here would be pleasantly surprised by it.

Tell me about it. I'm the one with the blue face? ;) Been banging on about proper romance for ages, though more comedy to be fair (aside from The Apartment). I honestly think the last really good rom-com was Working Girl. And yes, Pete, that does mean discounting almost all of Sandra Bullock's back catalogue!

I hasten to add, I like a hell of a lot more than just Working Girl (especially a bit of Bullock!), but that's the only one with charm enough to even think about standing up to the classics. Jesus, I go off at a tangent sometimes! I hope people don't think Brief Encounter is a comedy now... :bag:

Not helped by all the Yank soldiers shagging all our women for the price of a pair of nylons!  :whistle:

Could it be that the Pre-War English woman was tired of the stiff upper lip doctrine in British society, and wanted some below the belt to be more calcified?  :hmmmm: :tease: :laugh:

 :laugh: Maybe! But don't forget, the Victorians were filthy buggers and could show us a thing or two even today!

Offline Antares

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Re: Brief Encounter (1945)
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2010, 10:01:41 PM »
For me the last good romance film, not rom-com, was Linklater's Before Sunrise. And I amazed at how few people have seen it. Sure, it's dialog intensive, but that's where the beauty is. Linklater has always been good at writing dialog.

Offline goodguy

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Re: Brief Encounter (1945)
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2010, 11:32:27 PM »
For me the last good romance film, not rom-com, was Linklater's Before Sunrise. And I amazed at how few people have seen it. Sure, it's dialog intensive, but that's where the beauty is. Linklater has always been good at writing dialog.

I love both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. There is of course a bit more innocence and magic to the first one, but I usually end up watching both of them together. So calling the first one the last good one seems a bit harsh. If you do happen to like Before Sunset as well, I would recommend Hans Canosa's Conversations with Other Women, which is even newer than the Linklater one. There are numerous others; good and intelligent romance movies are still being made - even if most people tend to watch bad rom-coms instead.

EDIT:
The flipside to those "talkies" is one I discovered recently: Jose Luis Guerin's In the City of Sylvia (2007). Almost no dialogue, but equally compelling.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2010, 12:01:51 AM by goodguy »
Matthias

Najemikon

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Re: Brief Encounter (1945)
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2010, 12:09:03 AM »
I had forgotten about Before Sunrise. I must seek those out, because I never caught the second one.

Offline Antares

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Re: Brief Encounter (1945)
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2010, 12:09:46 AM »
I still haven't gotten around to watching Before Sunset. I guess I'm leery because I liked the first one so much, I don't want to be disappointed.

Offline Antares

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Re: Brief Encounter (1945)
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2010, 12:11:56 AM »
While we're on the subject, I just remembered In the Mood for Love, which I finally got the chance to see last weekend. Amazing film.  :thumbup:

Najemikon

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Re: Brief Encounter (1945)
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2010, 12:19:47 AM »
Of course, we were only talking about it the other day! :slaphead: Very much heir apparent to Brief Encounter.