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Brief Encounter (Full Screen)

Celia Johnson , Trevor Howard , David Lean    Unrated   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Product Description

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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Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Encounter Brief Encounter May 11 2004
1946's Brief Encounter, directed by David Lean (of Doctor Zhivago fame, which he would later direct in 1965) is a great film full of subtlety, romance and melancholia. Shot in black and white, this film is almost a signature of the 40's, as was the more popular and successful Casablanca. Without mention of World War II, this film deals with internal struggles of the heart. Cecila Johnson stars as the romantic heroine, a married woman and Trevor Howard the love interest, a married doctor. Though it's apparent they are disenchanted with their marriages and they are in love with each other, they never fully give in to a passionate affair. It's a romance that is mostly feelings and emotions, furtive glances, sighs, talk and regular meetings that are brief in a train station.
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest love stories ever filmed June 14 2002
This has to be one of my favourite films of all times. The script is superb, the acting unrivalled and the atmosphere electric. Everything about it is just wonderful. Everything that is except this DVD. Is it just me, or has anyone else found that the transfer to DVD is simply appalling? I have bought 3 copies of this disc from 3 different suppliers, only to find on each one that the picture continually washes from light to almost pitch black every few seconds throughout the film. None of the other reviews here mention this fact, but I can't believe it's just been my bad luck. What a shame. I've been waiting for this movie for on DVD for a long time, but it's a waste of time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An age of innocence March 21 2003
Well before Adrian Lyne's morality tales about adultery came this David Lean non-epic that didn't burst, early into the film, with sexual aggression. Rather, that subtle pain of nervous tension, between adults who are attracted to each other but who are not allowed to act on it, is brought to life in an age of innocence and rules.
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.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great rainy day movie :) Dec 16 2002
This is a classic tearjerker. I first saw this movie late one night when I was in college on my local PBS station. I knew from the moment it started it was a title that I must add to my video collection.
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 . . .
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5.0 out of 5 stars Big in Japan. Oct. 23 2002
This film by the Director David Lean is fairly massive in Japan...so much so that (so I'm told) the dilapidated railway station where it was filmed in Yorkshire has been saved for the tourist industry. During the war years they filmed it up there because there was too much traffic in the skies further south...not to mention explosions and the rest. After the films release and of course the wars end lots of Japanese tourists would turn up and almost cry at the state of this hardly ever used line, so many that the local Parish authorities became embarrassed enough to do something...they still come so I expect the council is quids-in by now.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of my favorite films.
Published 4 months ago by M.A.Smelt
2.0 out of 5 stars brief encoounter
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.

W Owen
Published 8 months ago by Wendy Owen
5.0 out of 5 stars BRIEF ENCOUNTER
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 more
Published 22 months ago by BARBARA J MARTIN
1.0 out of 5 stars Dont buy
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 more
Published on Aug. 19 2010 by right
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
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
Published on March 19 2004 by Ben Parker
4.0 out of 5 stars Another outstanding older movie
This is a wonderful movie - love having it on DVD - again shows how much more effective many of the older films are over the newer ones. Read more
Published on July 15 2003 by Jean Donovan
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief Encounter Goes the Distance
This is my favorite movie in the world. I have seen it many times over the years and it never disappoints. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2002 by Mara Kurtz
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
outstanding job by criterion. beautiful transfer. subtle, moving actors and stunningly filmed. recommended.
Published on May 26 2002 by brigid o'shaughnessy
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