Brief Encounter (6/8/12)

Brief EncounterMovie One Hundred Thirty Nine

Brief Encounter is the story of two complete strangers that briefly meet at a train station but develop a strong relationship for one another despite their own lives back home.

The film begins inside the train station cafe, where a couple is seen talking in the background while a station officer talks with the owner. Eventually the camera makes its way over to the couple as a chatty woman recognizes the woman and butts into their obviously important conversation. Soon the man’s train arrives and he has to go, obviously distraught. The two women continue talking, but the first woman’s mind is obviously still lingering on the conversation she was having with the man. The story then becomes narrated by the woman, Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson), in a letter to her husband and tells her tale of a sordid love connection with Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) after the two met by chance in the same station.

Brief Encounter is a movie I was expecting to enjoy since it comes from director David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge on the River Kwai) but I was not expecting to be so completely absorbed by the film from the opening sequence.  We know that Laura and Alec’s relationship ends as he gets on a train but we know nothing else until the film guides us. In my head I was almost expecting a Casablanca-like plot and the two films share some similarities but Brief Encounter is much more straightforward, strictly focusing on the relationship between two people that are living comfortable but unsatisfying lives at home.

The films two stars both shine bright in their roles here and the direction and camera-work are all incredibly well done. For being from the 40s and taking place in the 30s, Brief Encounter is not quite as rigid as I was anticipating though the dialogue can be a bit too proper at times.

Criterion has once again given new life to a film that likely hasn’t had nearly enough publicity since it’s opening. The film comes from the David Lean Directs Noel Coward box set and the Blu-Ray is exactly what we have come to expect from Criterion. While this was the first film of four I have watched, I am greatly looking forward to the rest if they are treated with the same care, which I’m sure they have been.

Brief Encounter is one of the best films about a romance I have seen and I would almost shy away from calling it a romance film. While obviously surrounding a relationship, Brief Encounter is really about the people in the relationship rather than the relationship itself, which I think is a fair distinction. I would recommend this film to everyone that doesn’t mind the possibility of an unhappy ending.

I give it 5 Flames of Passions out of 5.

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