Updated: October 18, 2020 1:55:12 pm
Stories of earnest, passionate extra-marital affairs is not a new concept, when it comes to cinema. The tale of forbidden love has been told on celluloid for ages. And one of the best examples is the 1945 British romantic drama Brief Encounter. Directed by the celebrated David Lean, the film revolves around Laura Jesson and Dr Alec Harvey who chance upon each other in a railway station cafe. The first encounter is, well, brief. But then they keep meeting until they become besotted with each other. What starts as innocent happenings turn into a raw, but guilt-driven affair.
The movie is in black-and-white, shot and produced efficiently for its time. And spans only around 90 minutes. The editing is precise. The stunning Celia Johnson is perfect as they come in her portrayal of Laura. She longs, grieves, frequently finds herself in a dilemma, but still has a conscience. Celia brings all the various components and complexities of Laura to life with elegance and charisma. Despite knowing that she is in the wrong, you cannot help but vouch for her, hope for her happiness. The inner monologues and the narration of Laura are powerful tools used by the makers, which helps us understand the workings of her mind better.
Trevor Howard also does a credible job, and of course, looks the part to the T. Sadly, his presence in the movie is dwarfed by Celia’s light. This doesn’t have to do anything with Trevor’s performance itself. The story is all about Laura, and it is her journey of loss, self-reconciliation and acceptance that we see in the film. This is also the weakest and the most striking quality about Brief Encounter. The fact that it tells a tale of unconsummated love, but doesn’t give equal importance to both the leading characters. And that jumps out at you because you realise that this is a narrative woven from a woman’s perspective. How she reacts to finding herself in a ‘dangerous’ situation and how she handles the thing holds more importance than Alec and Laura’s chemistry. This is a rare occurrence, when a film’s strength also becomes its biggest weakness.
Many critics have since presumed that Brief Encounter was a kind of allegory that screenwriter Noel Coward used for his own hidden sexuality. Coward was a homosexual who never discussed his orientation in public. Since his death, many letters and diaries have come to light that confirm the nature of his sexuality.
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To sum it up, Brief Encounter is a wispy, delicate, lovely film that stays with you long after you have made your full acquaintance with the material.
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