Friday, 3 August 2007

Summer of British Film: Brief Encounter - Review by Carmody Wilson

The BBC and the UK Film Council are celebrating British cinema by screening classics on the big screen every Tuesday until Sept 11th in cinemas all over the UK. Each film has been digitally remastered in Hi-Def and Montage writers will be appraising these classics!

Director: David Lean
Screenwriter: Noel Coward
Running Time: 86 mins
Certificate: PG
Release: Screening Tuesday 7th August

Love, in David Lean’s Brief Encounter, is everything. The feeling of its power and pitfalls are evident throughout the film and the question of what kinds of love people are willing to sacrifice everything for is beautifully asked, and eventually, quietly answered.

The film opens with the scream of a train whistle and all of the hustle and bustle of a busy commuter junction until the scene shifts to inside the café, to a quieter, but much more chaotic world. Laura Jesson, (Celia Johnson) and Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) are having what appears to be a tender moment together when they are soundly interrupted by an unwanted guest. Dr. Harvey leaves to catch his train, and here is where the love story ends and the movie begins.

Laura’s morose demeanor, well accentuated by Johnson’s long, rather morose face, gives way to complete misery as the rancid old gossip by her side prattles on. It is here that the viewer is treated to the masterstroke of subtlety that plays out so well in Brief Encounter- Laura is heartbroken at the departure of her lover, but must give no sign of her turmoil-something she has become more than practiced at in the previous weeks. Lean’s direction concentrates on the faces in close-up of his stars, and they, in turn, reward him with restrained, dignified performances that are fraught with naked longing. The love is palpable between Laura and Alec from the very first, as is the strain that their resulting duplicity produces. The backdrop of the train station and the feral tea trolley lady provide the clangy mayhem that contrasts with the quiet, but ferocious affair of the heart that drives the film.
Brief Encounter is at its best in moments of reflection, and through these the moral quandary, the breathtaking highs and lows, and the delicious frisson of excitement that newfound love produces is made all the more affecting. It is also these reflections, given us through Laura as she travels to or away from her lover, that reveal the full gamut of pain and regret that inexorably follows extramarital affairs. But Brief Encounter is so much more than a courtship gone wrong story or a moral lesson: it is a love affair wrapped inside a very good film.

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