I wasn't planning on watching this film this early in the month, but it just happened. I couldn't resist. As soon as I finished my entry for last month, I wound up starting this movie and about two minutes in turned it off and told myself to be strong. I was strong, for a spell.
I'm just going to jump right into this one. This was just an astonishing film, and one that I feel a very strong urge to watch again, tonight.
For reference, here are my previous Blind Spot entries:
It’s funny to me how having absolutely no foreknowledge of a particular film can shape the way you actually are able to take it all in. I’m not going to lie; when I decided to sit down and watch ‘Brief Encounter’, I had no idea what it was about, but judging from the poster and the stills I saw I had this preconceived notion that it was a film noir that had to do with murder and deceit. When the screen burst to life with that gorgeous shot of the train and the rich black and white cinematography engulfed me (that steam!) I had a feeling that my notions were correct.
They were not.
In fact, ‘Brief Encounter’, while dealing with a level of deceit, is nothing like I had expected. But, while I say this I also can’t help but feel like this is what would have happened had Alfred Hitchcock decided to switch up his career trajectory and direct romance movies. Think ‘An Affair to Remember’, with an edge. While ‘Brief Encounter’ has this air of romance, that romance is besieged by this darkness, this unwavering brute honesty that consumes every frame.
Is there such a genre as black-romance? Would ‘Jane Eyre’ count?
As I noted, ‘Brief Encounter’ opens with a glorious look at a train station, complete with billowing steam and the roaring pass of the train. We are then introduced to two people, both married to different people. Laura and Alec look worried as they dodge questions and stares and possibly each other until they disappear. When Laura returns, her weary eyes tell a tale that I was not expecting, but when her touching narration started to fill in the gaps, it all became clear.
Unveiling the actual storyline or at least the progression of it feels a tad pointless. The best way that I can describe this is to say that it is, as noted, ‘An Affair to Remember’ with a twist. Think of it like 2002’s ‘Unfaithful’, but, you know, a good movie. In fact, the whole time I was watching Celia Johnson’s stunning performance I was reminded of Diane Lane and how I really wish that Lane had been given a better film for her one and only Oscar nod. The performances are very similar, and Johnson, much like Lane, finds a way to add layers of sympathy to her character without ever making light of the actual weight involved in the prose. Infidelity is never treated like a carefree act, but is regarded with a serious note of heartbreak and the way that Johnson builds such a fully developed character is astonishing.
The beautiful thing that David Lean (a director better known for his grander efforts, but honestly this is the best film I’ve seen from him) does here is the way he actually builds the relationship between Laura and Alec with such clarity. It all swells so beautifully to the point where it feels like an honest and believable ‘love at first sight’, which is so important to the establishment of the realistic tone created. The elongated conversations felt very much like the ‘Before…’ trilogy created by Richard Linklater, with nearly forty minutes of words floating effortlessly between characters.
This is a stunning film; simply stunning.