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Brief Encounter

Director: David Lean

U.K. • 1945 • BLACK AND WHITE • 86 MIN.


A dutiful wife (Celia Johnson) is helping her husband (Cyril Raymond) with his ‘Times’ crossword puzzle, completing a line of a Keats poem that he has been unable to identify. The missing word, which she supplies, is ‘Romance’. For him it was merely ‘something . . . in seven letters’, but it must be right, he says, because it fits in with ‘delirium’.

In David Lean’s films, romance commonly fits in with delirium. In ‘Brief Encounter’, this moment is the cue for an anguished subjective flashback, where we eavesdrop on the wife’s internal monologue about falling in love with a married doctor (Trevor Howard) whom she had met by chance at a station. They are both constrained by guilt, duty and family ties; nothing happens. Yet, as the rich chords of Rachmaninov accompanying the wife’s tortured confession hint at a passionate inner life that has never found expression, we realise the experience might have undermined her whole existence. Lean’s visually stunning direction transforms what might have seemed a drab suburban drama into a dark subversive dream, culminating in one of the great Expressionist moments in British film, when a tilted camera angle towards the end reveals a previously ordered life becoming completely destabilised and an ostensibly ‘normal’ married woman hurtling towards a terrifying emotional abyss. Brilliantly acted and ingeniously constructed, this is classic movie-making: Billy Wilder and Robert Altman are only two great directors who have acknowledged their indebtedness to it.
Neil Sinyard

‘Brief Encounter’ is re-released in a new 35mm print.
THE WILD STRAWBERRIES CLUB MARCH SCREENING WILL BE BRIEF ENCOUNTER ON WED 29TH AT 11.00.THE FILM WILL BE INTRODUCED BEFOREHAND AND TIME
PERMITTING, THERE IS A DISCUSSION AFTERWARDS. ANYONE OVER 50 IS WELCOME TO ATTEND FREE OF CHARGE, BUT YOU MUST RING TO RESERVE A PLACE (01 679 5744).

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