An Ode to Brief Encounter

Words by Naomi Jeffreys

“I love you, I love your wide eyes, the way you smile, your shyness, and the way you laugh at my jokes”

In my opinion, possibly one of the best movie lines ever uttered out of an actor’s mouth. David Lean and Noel Coward (the director and writer of the film) are able to capture a moment in two character’s lives. Quite literally a ‘Brief Encounter’.

What I love about this film is that the two protagonists, Dr Alec Harvey and Mrs Laura Jesson are two ordinary middle class, middle aged people, both married, both not looking for love, and they find such a strong, intense love in one another; they are awakened, they are reborn.

Celia Johnson (Laura Jesson) carries the film; her voiceovers convey to the audience exactly what she is feeling, when she is feeling it. This is unique in terms of the Golden Era of Cinema; audiences were never told what the character was feeling instead the camera just conveyed their feelings.

However David Lean delves in to her facial expressions, often using prolonged close ups. The actor John Sessions has said on Celia Johnson: “She has the most fantastically cinematic face, those incredibly huge luminous eyes which the camera delves right in to…” What is more, Laura Jesson has such moral fibre; she feels such a duty towards her husband, a rather bland, unnoticeable character who spends his evenings filling out the crossword.

Brief Encounter was set pre-war and shows the fiscal middle class Britain enjoying life before the inevitable Second World War. What is more, Lean is also able to capture the awkward Britishness through his dialogue, in one scene, when the two lovers are discovered by Laura Jesson’s neighbour, they begin discussing the weather: “Horrid weather isn’t it? Of course one can’t really expect spring at this time of the year can one?” this awkward dialogue is captured perfectly and could show exactly what we British citizens do.

I could go on about such a beautiful, amazing, heart rending film Brief Encounter was and still is in modern day Britain of all David Lean’s films, Brief Encounter is the film which fans always come back to, it is a true British classic.

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