Sunday, 13 February 2011

It's awfully easy to lie when you know that you're trusted implicitly. So very easy, and so very degrading.

No 171 - Brief Encounter
Director - David Lean

Never forget.... This is Noel Coward's film. Noel Coward's Brief Encounter. Never Ever Forget (the film likes to make sure you know that it comes from a Noel Coward pedigree)

What I like about this story is that it throws you in at the end of a very brief (as the name implies) but intense relationship. When we meet Alec and Laura they are both distant, clipped, restrained. We then have to listen to Laura's friend natter on and on and on as Laura becomes increasingly distant.
It is a weird opening move because it means that I couldn't really connect to Laura. I couldn't relate to her. The film didn't try and get me to empathise. Instead she is just quiet. Quiet and distant. She goes home to her dull but seemingly lovely husband and her freaky freaky children (I find children in old films very odd. They are far too clipped and proper).

But then.... we go into flashback and we begin to see the relationship between Alec and Laura. And it is built up gloriously. From chance meetings and happy coincidences, to a small friendship, to full blown love. It doesn't feel rushed or false. It feels real. It feels forbidden.

I think this is helped by the fact that the film is very very 'stiff upper lip' - so these moments of passion between the two characters are amplified and made to feel even more daring and romantic and wild. It also made more passionate by the time in which is set. Nowadays two people in love could divorce and just get on with it.... but in the film world it is an impossibility. And a tragedy. This is a product of a former time - a time when people could say 'he made me feel gay' and when marriage was a lot more permanent.

The whole film is subtle - there are only a few moments where they kiss, and certainly no sexy times - but yet it is full of lust. And pain. Such understated acting showing exactly the quandary they're in - just a glorious thing to watch.

So by the time we return to the end of the relationship, and the film's first scene - we now know why the characters are so aloof, so quiet. And Laura's friend becomes even more annoying...

As all of this is told in flashback we eventually return to Laura's front room where she has been in a semi-doze.
And it is here that Fred shows the briefest crack of emotion in a heart breaking moment of tenderness. It is a simple line which questions whether he knew or suspected anything and which shows how important it is that Laura didn't leave him for Alec. There is still a lot of love in her marriage.

Watch the last scene.... See the marvellous depression on Alec and Laura's faces. See the fabulous bit of presentation with the whistling and tilted camera as it all gets too much for Laura. And see the show stealing heart breaking subtlety of Fred's last line.

This film taught me that Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto number 2 (the main theme for this film) has the main theme used in All by Myself.... so I found myself singing along to the sad moments of the film.


Siobhan said...

I've only ever seen this film in bits. And those bits were so moving. I now need to see it all in one piece. So thanks for prompting that.

Anonymous said...

"I meant to do it, I really did" gets me EVERY time.

One of my favourite films of all time.