Archive for August, 2013

20
Aug
13

Brief Encounter Part 5

Stanley Holloway as Albert and Joyce Carey as Myrtle in Brief Encounter

Stanley Holloway as Albert and Joyce Carey as Myrtle in Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter is an exploration of the repression of the British middle class. Words that keep coming up in dialogue between Laura and other characters as well as in Laura’s voiceover include “ordinary,” “uncomplicated,” and “sensible,” which emphasizes the normalcy and boredom of Laura’s everyday routine. Director David Lean’s use of actual locations and actress Celia Johnson’s natural appearance and acting style add to the cinematic realism of some of the scenes; scenes, such as in the rowboat, look as if they could be taken straight from a home movie, which also adds a level of nostalgic romanticism. And Laura’s life seems to be mundane until Alec enters the picture and disrupts her routine and repressed emotions.

Albert and Myrtle are the comic, working class foils to Alec and Laura. Albert and Myrtle’s earthier, more overt expressions of affection directly contrast Alec and Laura’s more subtle, repressed romance. In addition to adding humor to an otherwise serious movie, it seems that Lean and Coward are also advocating Albert and Myrtle’s outlook.

Before its official release, Brief Encounter had a bad preview in front of a working class audience; the audience members just couldn’t understand Laura and Alec’s repression, and some shouted at the screen for them to go ahead and kiss. (For more discussion about working class reaction to the film, see Neel14’s astute comment of my previous blog post, “Brief Encounter Part 2”.) Lean took this rejection personally and subsequently considered the film a failure. History has shown us otherwise.

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12
Aug
13

Brief Encounter Part 4

sheet musicBrief Encounter screenwriter Noel Coward chose Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2” for the film’s soundtrack. The piece experienced a surge in popularity after the film’s release.

The concerto not only provides actual ambient music from the living room radio during Laura’s flashbacks but also punctuates the flashbacks. This was groundbreaking use of classical music in a non-musical setting as a dramatic device. It was also groundbreaking in that the film uses the music as more that just unobtrusive background music; it actually becomes part of the viewer’s primary level of consciousness, signaling (alongside the flashback structure) that what we are seeing is through Laura’s eyes. The music as a window into Laura’s soul is further emphasized by the fact that although the concerto was written by a man and chosen for the film by a man, it is played on the soundtrack by a female pianist named Eileen Joyce.