Friday, October 8, 2010
Brief Encounter (1945)
An affair between a middle aged housewife Laura (Celia Johnson) and and a Dr Alec (Trevor Howard) gets out of emotional control and the romance veers towards webs of lies that inevitably result from secrecy.
This is a Lean different from the one who gave us the magnificent spectacles in later years. But the poetry of the camera is very much evident, here in black and white splendor. The place of the clandestine meetings is a railway station and the implacable smoke spouting locomotives thundering past are the leitmotiv of the tale. The power of the film lies in the brief intensity of the affair, the transience of things.
It is very much a nocturnal movie (except the brief excursion to the idyllic countryside as they row down a stream) in both mood and setting. The poetry of the trains flying through the night pervades the film as a symbol of implacable destiny and the relentless nature of time. Laura at one point contemplates an Anna Karenina kind of resolution, but this is a movie saturated with sadness more than tragedy, and she does not in fact leap.
I think Lean is in essence a romantic idealist and the portraits of Lawrence, Zhivago and Colonel Nicholson (in Bridge on the River Kwai) are not too different from the romantic pair of this film. The magic of the camera to create an epic visual poetry is already evident in this thirty seven year Lean.
This is hardly the "tear-jerker" some have called it. It is a film of youth and passion, about the frailty of our human vessel, and the nobility and fineness of which human beings are equally capable.