Brief Encounter (Full Screen)
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From Noël Coward's play Still Life, legendary filmmaker David Lean deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance in the dour, gray Britain of 1945. From a chance meeting on a train platform, a middle-aged married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) enter into a quietly passionate, ultimately doomed love affair, set to a swirling Rachmaninoff score. Criterion is proud to present Lean's award-winning masterpiece a beautifully restored digital transfer.
To many, Brief Encounter may seem like a relic of more proper times--or, specifically, more properly British times--when the pressures of marital decorum and fidelity were perhaps more keenly felt. In truth, David Lean's fourth film remains a timeless study of true love (or, rather, the promise of it), and the aching desire for intimate connection that is often subdued by the obligations of marriage. And so it is that ordinary Londoners Alec (Trevor Howard), a married doctor, and contented housewife Laura (Celia Johnson) meet by chance one day in a train station, when he volunteers to remove a fleck of ash from her eye (a romantic gesture that, perhaps, inspired Robert Towne's "flaw in the iris" scene in Chinatown).
It so happens that their schedules coincide at the train station every Thursday, and their casual attraction grows, through quiet conversation and longing expressions, into the desperate recognition of mutual love. From this point forward, Lean turns this utterly precise, 85-minute film into a bracing study of romantic suspense, leading inevitably, and with the paranoid, furtive glances of a spy thriller, to the moment when this brief encounter must be consummated or abandoned altogether. Decades later, the outcome of this affair--both agonizing and rapturous--is subtle and yet powerful enough to draw tears from the numbest of souls, and spark debate regarding the tragedy or virtue of the choices made. A truly universal film, with meticulously controlled emotions revealed through the flawless performances of Howard and Johnson, and an enduring masterpiece that continued Lean on his course to cinematic greatness. --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
Lean's style is stylistic in subtle doses (we can neither forget the atmosphere of the train station, nor the tilting camera when suicide almost happens). It is a compact, Lean (pun intended) narrative that had to be, immediately upon completion, an eternal masterpiece.
This Criterion Collection DVD bears an excellent transfer; it must have coincided with the new print I saw at the American Film Institute National Theater in Washington. However, unlike most Criterion DVDs, there is very little in the nature of extras, other than a commentary track and a brief description of the restoration process. (That is to say, no documentary.)
David Lean is experimenting with many techniques, particularily intimate angles and interior monologue. No film can ever top his Doctor Zhivago, but this film is at least second best and good for its time in 1946. There is a particularly impressive scene in which the lovers are interrupted and Celia Johnson's character must take a train trip with a very chatty, annoying woman friend. The older woman chatters away and we tap into Celia's thoughts. "I wish she would stop talking.. I wish she were dead" (I thought this was hilarious because we are wishing the same thing by that point)....but then she reprimands herself and comes to the conclusion, after a tiring day, that life does not last, that nothing really lasts forever, neither happiness nor despair. It's very poignant. Another reason besides the great acting and the story itself is the fact that Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, regarded as his finest, is played in this film. The dramatic, romantic storm that is the first movement, followed by a melancholy adagio, is very effective for this type of film.
It is a simple tale that makes whole the saying, "It is better to have loved and lost then not to love at all." The characters are two "common" people (doctor and housewife, respectively) that find in one another what they lack in their individual married lives (we really don't have much of a clue as to what these are -- but it really doesn't matter -- the story is about them).
This movie was adapted from the play originally from Noel Coward; so particularly the train station scenes are obviously stagy; but what David Lean did (which I found out from the commentary) was open up the film with exterior shots of the couple "in town."
Overall it is lovely telling picture that I highly recommend. Criterion has yet again done a magnificent job with the digital transfer making you feel like you are back in the Cineplex of the mid-late 1940's experiencing this film. Of course, this is without the big-screen. So curl onto your couch with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy while the rain hits the window . . .
I dare say I shan't see a more romantic and moving display of repressed emotion in any movie...the world has changed now so much...people just jump each other it seems nowadays and bother the consequences (if indeed any). She's not the most beautiful lady who ever graced the silver screen is she Celia Johnson but the utter charm of her performance (not that she's alone) steals any steely heart.
Most recent customer reviews
Excellent flick with great acting performances. Audio and video quality were both good. Rachimonoff concerto provides great musical background. DVD arrived in great shape. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jean-paul N. Mertens
Oh, this is such a brilliant movie - means so much to me as I was born and raised in the U.K. and my mum used to take me to the Kardomah Cafe, where these two used to go, when I... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Maxine
the movie was well done, but I was disappointed with the story.
after hearing about it in 'Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont' I expected it to be sadder.
This DVD was a gift for my husband. It was in perfect shape when received and has been watched several times since its arrival. Read morePublished on Jan. 24 2013 by BARBARA J MARTIN
I purchsed this on amazon and it was sent from England. Their system for playing DVDs does not work on our system - they use PAl . Therefore I couldn't play it . Read morePublished on Aug. 19 2010 by right
If you loved Lost in Translation, you'll love this.
If you love Sleepless in Seattle and similar modern romance classics, see the movie that inspired those filmmakers. Read more
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