- Still life 1/18/2006 12:00:00 AM by jotix100
Certain songs, or melodies, associated with films one has seen, stay in our sub conscience forever. This is the case with the Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto for this viewer. Any time we hear it, or parts of the main themes are played, it immediately evokes this romantic film of 1945. It's a tribute to its director, David Lean, that after more than sixty years, it still is one of the most cherished movie experiences for a lot of people that saw it, or that are just getting acquainted with it.
"Brief Encounter" owes it all to one of the best talent in the English speaking world of the last century: Noel Coward. As part of his "Tonight at Eight" theater work, this one act play, "Still Life" was turned by its author and David Lean into what we know as "Brief Encounter", a bittersweet account of two lovers, doomed from the start.
The film works because the exquisite chemistry between its two stars, Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Both these actors make Laura Jesson and Alec Harvey come alive and stay with us every time we view this timeless film. The story is not far fetched and is made real by the two stars that elevate it to one of the best films of all times. The movie is done with an impeccable sense of decorum and style, yet it has such a sexy subtext. That was a time when a film didn't have to "bare it all" in order to catch the viewer's imagination. In fact, Laura and Alec let us know, without being specific, about the passion that both feel for one another.
Celia Johnson was not a great beauty. Neither was Trevor Howard the epitome of handsomeness, yet, their scenes together project such a heat, as the one that their characters are feeling at any given moment. The fact the two illicit lovers are played by people one could relate to, is what makes the film resonate the way it does every time we watch it. Of course, we realize this situation had no future from the start, yet, one keeps hoping their love will end well.
The supporting cast is excellent. Stanley Holloway is seen as the station master Albert. Joyce Carey is perfect as the woman in charge of the refreshment area of the station where Laura and Alec spend some of their time together. Cyril Raymond makes Fred Jesson, a man who perhaps understand much more than what he lets know. Everly Gregg is seen as the chattering Dolly Messiter.
"Brief Encounter" is one of the best films directed by David Lean, a man who was able to give the film the right tone and made it the classic that it is.
- An excellent, charming, moving film. 11/22/2000 12:00:00 AM by Lloyd-23
Have you really never seen Brief Encounter? What have you been doing all these years? You have a treat in store.
I have a great love for British films of the 1940s. There seems to have been a great flowering of creative talent then, and the films of the period look beautiful, and have such wonderful characters in them. David Lean is more famous for his huge Technicolor epics, like Lawrence of Arabia, or A Passage to India, but Brief Encounter is his most moving film. It is shot in atmospheric black and white, and tells the story of two people who fall in love, in mundane little England.
Celia Johnston plays Laura, a middle class woman who lives a happy but predictable life, who meets Dr. Alec Harvey, played by craggy Trevor Howard. There starts a doomed love affair, set to the sweeping romantic sounds of Rachmaninov's 2nd piano concerto. This single piece of music plays throughout the film, and stirs up exactly the right emotions. The film will make you want to own a recording of the music.
Such is the power and influence of this film, that it has been remade a few times, and spoofed on countless occasions. It created the archetype for the romantic farewell on a station platform, with steam hissing from trains, and an orchestra playing in the background. Though this has been copied often, it has never been bettered. The film involves a few scenes on railway platforms, and some of these are mundane, others joyous, or despairing, wretched. The director uses many deft tricks to heighten the emotion all along the way. A simple tilt of the camera, or contrasting mood of another character, serves to add tremendous power to the emotion of the scenes.
Times were different then. People were brasher, accents were stronger, and social attitudes to affairs quite different. The period of the film gives it much of its charm. It does not make it a cold study of a different culture, however. The film is very personal. The character of Laura's husband is hardly seen in the entire film, which means that we identify more with Laura's feelings. We see the affair and next to nothing else.
Celia Johnson brings a great deal to the film. She is so likeable, and so able to express the misery that her new love brings her. Her manner of speaking is quite alien to a modern ear. In the 1940s, it was quite normal to add a Y sound to many words. "Hat" became "hyat". The accents are not forced, though - they come across as quite natural, and very likeable.
This film would not be made this way today. The modern audience would demand younger stars, and nudity. See this film to witness how it was once possible to make films about love without bedroom scenes. Brief Encounter is very much stronger for lack of these. Stoicism and restraint are under-rated traits in modern cinema. Modern directors and writers would do well to remind themselves with this film, that a story can be given tremendous emotional power by techniques which seem to have been lost.
- A simple film with complex emotions 10/10/2000 12:00:00 AM by dj_kennett
Brief Encounter is probably one of the finest romances made by the English film industry. The story line is simple, of a married woman who meets a stranger and falls in love, belies the complexity of the emotions involved. It ends poignantly, as both parties realise that their feelings have been overshadowed by the social impossibility of their situation.
The film is particularly good at reflecting the post-war austerity and morality of England. It may change your view of railway stations forever.
- Lean, spare & beautiful 3/25/2000 12:00:00 AM by Tipu
I didn't think I'd write this comment till I saw the 2 previous ones criticizing 'BE'. I don't know how much this movie would appeal to camp-followers of an in-your-face go-getting culture. Some of the frequent adjectives describing this movie is 'civilised', 'restrained', 'noble'. To those who call this movie dated, I'll say that these are indeed qualities which are hardly followed & upheld today, especially in movies. However movies do reflect contemporary social mores, & maybe the story of two illicit lovers sacrificing their love for something as obvious as home & family does not find to many buyers today.
For those who think a movie can convey some of the most intimate emotions, conflicts & visions known to us, those who believe 2 art forms (Rachmaninoff's 2nd, Lean's 4th) can coexist brilliantly, & finally for those who believed David Lean got body-snatched in mid-career to make over-blown nonsense like 'Dr. Zhivago' this is one of the best ways to spend 86 minutes!
- Simple, Honest, and Unforgettable. 8/10/2004 12:00:00 AM by Harold_Robbins
It really pleases me to see the very positive responses here to this gem of a movie. I recently read Kevin Brownlow's epic, detailed biography of David Lean, and I'm less mystified as to how Lean went from intimate character dramas such as this one, and even GREAT EXPECTATIONS and OLIVER TWIST, to the big-screen epics which placed far more emphasis on scenery and very little on character. Lean had great problems with intimacy, and much preferred grandeur (he virtually abandoned his son, and didn't meet one of his grandchildren until she was about 30). I'm not knocking the epics, because I've enjoyed them as well, but at the end of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA one knows about as much about Lawrence as one did about 3-1/2 hours earlier. ..unlike Alec and Laura in this film, whom we know very well after 1-1/2 hours, or Pip and Miss Havisham in EXPECTATIONS, characters who leapt off the screen and endeared themselves to us (it also helped that some really gifted actors & actresses played these roles).
I never tire of BRIEF ENCOUNTER - it's one of the screen's great romances, perhaps because it doesn't quite end "happily ever after". It remains simple, honest, and unforgettable.