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Brief Encounter (1945)| Review

Updated: May 31, 2022

In a 1999 poll of "The Best British Films of All Time" David Lean's film, Brief Encounter, placed 2nd. David Lean's mostly known for groundbreaking epics, like Lawrence of Arabia (which placed 3rd), The Bridge On the River Kwai, and Doctor Zhivago, but his lesser-known films and at the same time earlier films are nothing less of masterpieces. Films like Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948) are all masterpiece adaptations of renowned British Literature, but the best film he's directed has to be Brief Encounter.

One night after returning home from a trip in a nearby town, Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) imagines confessing to her husband on the whereabouts she took part in during her trips. Once every Thursday, for the past couple of weeks, Laura spent time with Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) and would go onto grow a relationship with one another. She would later return to her husband and children. The entire film is told in flashbacks and narration. It's based off Noel Coward's Still Life, a one-act play. The source material of the film has gained attention as one of the first films to follow the perspective of a woman during an affair.

While watching Brief Encounter, I began to notice the many ways Citizen Kane influenced the film. Citizen Kane popularized the use of extensive shadows, to both convey a certain atmosphere or in turn allude to a theme within the film. While Citizen Kane flopped at the box office and, at the time, was considered a boring mess, despite that, many filmmakers, like Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean, quickly understood the film's importance and implemented their favorite parts into their very own films, like the prominent shadows and camera placement and maneuvers. I noticed the many similarities in Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious, the many camera movements, and uses of close-ups, but the comparisons reach far and wide with Brief Encounter. The cinematography of Brief Encounter was done exceptionally, to capture an amazing image throughout and almost appear film noir-like and at the same time help to convey one of the underlying themes of the film, England's struggles after World War 2. The direction done by Lean rivals some of the best of the decade. Every scene was perfectly blocked to maximize the narrative and themes of the film. Brief Encounter has influenced many films, most prominently Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise (narrative-wise). Brief Encounter stands as one of the best British films of all time and a definitive classic.

Time Stamp: Jun 8, 2020

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