Sunday, 9 September 2012

Absolute Cinema - Brief Encounter

[Update on Schedule - First off I just want to offer up an explanation at the lack of posts, even after my update earlier in the week. I'm currently in the process of moving a lot of my stuff up to my new student house for the term, as well as being rather busy in work. So whatever free time I've had this week has been spent with my girlfriend or working on my entrants into the Belfast Zoo Photographic competition (I will include some in a later post if anyone is interested.) So until I'm settled in and have internet access my posts will be pretty scarce for the coming weeks.]

[Entry 2] Absoloute Cinema: Brief Encounter 

In my introduction to this blog I said that defining my love for cinema was something I couldn't do with text. So I have decided to put together a series of moments that showcase what I define as 'Absolute Cinema.' These can be a single element or a variety of cinematic techniques that come together in such a way that elevates cinema. It might be an entire sequence or just a particular shot, edit, score it doesn't even have to be on purpose. It is a moment exclusive to cinema as an art form.

A love more ordinary

When Laura Jesson, a married mother of two, get's a speck of dirt in her eye at the local train station she meets Dr Alec Harvey and an immediate connection between the two evolves into a deeper passion, bringing out an uncontrollable surge within her.

David Lean's Brief Encounter, based on the play Still Life by Noel Coward is one of the definitive cinematic romances and a perfect film. But more so, it is also one of the essential British class films. Laura is at the height of normality. She has two children and a weekly routine, her husband Frank is a seemingly kind but rather bland man who spends his evenings tackling the daily crossword puzzle. Any passion that might have existed in their marriage has long since diminished, reducing it to more of a polite arrangement. Ultimately, she leads the life she is expected to. That is, until she meets Alec Harvey, a Doctor in the town practice. It is immediately apparent to us why she is drawn to Alec; amusing and sensitive as well as more physically attractive. Enjoying each other's company, the two begin to meet regulary until it becomes clear that they both have deep seated emotions for each other. Laura becomes a woman torn, not just between her desire as a woman and her duty to her family, but also to the rules that society has deemed a woman in her position must adhere to. 

To Laura and Alec, this kind of love is a myth - something that belongs to the stars of the films they watch every Thursday afternoon. Lean himself makes this apparent with the film's soundtrack which is a variation of Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff, and includes a sutble exotic movement. Laura's emotional surge leads her to defy other social standards; she smokes in public during a late night walk alone is one such example. Lean's direction is restrained but enticing. The recurring force of the train, a representation of virtually everything; her pre-determined life, a passionate surge with the ability to bring her to and from Alec. As the viewer we begin to slip into Laura's emotional state, very rarely does a film install such a sense of longing and distress in the moments during and proceeding their final, tragic meeting. 

This brings us to the point of this post:



At the bleakest, most painful moment of Laura's sadness, it is Frank who gives, not just Laura what she needs, but what we the viewers do to. Make no mistake, this is not a Hollywood ending, the passion in their marriage has not be magically rekindled. Instead, Frank offers us something more ordinary, more humane. Support. He reveals that he has not be oblivious to Laura's turmoil over the past few weeks, he knows the difficulty that is to come. But he doesn't pry, he doesn't want to. Instead he sets down his paper, lends her his shoulder and thanks her for doing the only thing she could - coming home. 

It is in this final moment of Brief Encounter that we feel safe to leave Laura in the hands of Frank. We know her pain is far from over, we know that she might never heal completely. But we know that she is safe, that her husband has offered her love in it's least complex and safest form. And while the fire flickers warmly, the train station returns to a settling, complete stillness. 

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