Brief Encounter (1945) Directed by David Lean.

I once released an album with the Noel Coward quote "Extraordinary how potent cheap music is". It's amazing that Coward's words could still sound relevant in this day and age even when describing a scuzzy lo-fi album.

It's Noel Coward's script that keeps Brief Encounter so vital after all these years. That's not to say that Lean's direction isn't up to scratch, it's excellent.  Celia Johnson plays married, middle-aged Laura, the woman who recounts her chance meeting with a stranger that leads to illicit love. Alec is played by Trevor Howard, the Doctor with whom Laura has an affair with. Both actors have an unbelievable naturalness and charm that sucks us into the story.  A lot of tea is ordered at the refreshment room of the railway station, where a bulk of the action takes place.

Rachmaninov plays on the soundtrack, Lean gives us some powerful screen images, but Brief Encounter expresses sentiments of love, and especially forbidden love that very few pictures have ever touched upon.  Sure, there was a war on still and plenty of British stiff upper lip is on display. Of course, Brief Encounter is regarded as a classic, it is a famous film, perhaps not at the level of Casablanca or Gone With The Wind, but still this is an iconic picture. It perhaps displays more feeling and intelligence than it's more famous counterparts, it's that good. I say give into this, it's as perfect a romance as there has ever been in the cinema.

With lines on their faces and shadows under their eyes they fall for each other. Ordinary Thursdays in town turn into secretive lunches and movie dates, then into drives away from other people, kisses and desperation. The train station is at the center of this film. It is dark and sad, always aware of separation.

A friendship between a man and a woman is suspicious even when it is just about being friendly. Brief Encounter illustrates the internal and external trip from friendship to love, from doubt to knowing. The people in town are watching curiously and need to be lied to. The families at home have no idea of what is going on with these two strangers.

Celia Johnson's character narrates through out the film, to a point of exhaustion. Why does she talk us through gestures such as "he grabbed my arm" when we can see that? Maybe this is a flaw if there is one – at least it is something original in cinema.

There is a hat Johnson wears on most dates with her secret love, it is a mixture between a beret and a cap. She wears at least three other hats in this film, bu this is the one that signifies joy and the possibility for some radical outcome.

In its heart-wrenching emotional realism, this is genius.


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