Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Brief Encounter. A
Brief Encounter may be the ultimate woman's picture, though I wonder if such an unorthodox tale turned off much of its intended audience back upon its 1945 release. This film represents David Lean at his finest during the first tier of his career. As you likely know, after he stopped making small British films like this and Great Expectations, Lean pretty much became a new director with films like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago. Brief Encounter is every bit as simple and sublime as its title. It's the sort of movie you truly can watch over and over again, not just to examine more about it, but because the ease with which it presents itself can be rather addicting. The story is pretty basic. A married woman meets a married man at a train station and fall in love. Their schedules coincide every Thursday, which makes for the perfect opportunity to meet and spend some brief time together. At first there's an innocence about their relationship because neither of them know that they've fallen in love. But once they discover that they have, problems arise and they must figure out how long this should last. This is a movie that all but ignores the social norms of the times to show that the idyllic "old days" contained the same sins that plague the present day. The movie also says something about the war and how woman had greater freedom and were more liable to succumb to temptation while the men were off fighting (though the wife here isn't in that situation, making her guilt even greater). I think the most important thing Brief Encounter has to say is the nature of acting against one's conscience. The satisfaction it brings is great, greater than anything it seems, yet if as that satisfaction grows, so does the burden of conscience. Ultimately, conscience rules. The further one extends the satisfaction the greater the despair will be.