Brief Encounter

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(1945, directed by David Lean)

- inducted 2016 –

“Their affair is, as the title puts it, brief. They spread it out over a handful of Thursday afternoons and conduct it mostly in public, rendezvousing at a movie theater, pond-side park, or train station cafť. He’s a married doctor, played by Trevor Howard, who maintains a low, steady voice even when agitated by passion; she’s a suburban housewife, played by Celia Johnson, who sustains a world of fantasy within a plain and real life. She narrates the film as a confession, its tabulation of the facts inflected by regret, its addressee the loving husband who sits light-years away from her across the living room floor. Snatches of Rachmaninoff accompany her monologue, as do the roars of passing commuter trains.

“David Lean, who’d later enjoy great renown for his epics, builds this story out of tiny pieces: sips of brandy, cups of tea, a crossword puzzle, a sewing basket. All these things that would never merit remembering if your heart wasn’t breaking at the time. Lean’s storytelling is stingy with neither its attention nor its sympathy. Moral judgment is absent from the film. In its place is a gentle curiosity, open to all of the positive and negative consequences that infidelity might yield. The camera takes in Johnson’s reactions. It catches the firelight glittering in her eyes, her mussed hair, and the dolorous crumpling of her face. The affair might be brief, but it could still stay with her forever. Brief Encounter runs only a slim 86 minutes, but it might stay with you too.”

~ Alice Stoehr

Principal cast: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway, Joyce Carey, Cyril Raymond, Everley Gregg, Marjorie Mars, Margaret Barton
Screenplay by: NoŽl Coward, Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean, Ronald Neame (all uncredited)
Based on the play by NoŽl Coward
Produced by: Noel Coward, Anthony Havelock-Allan (uncredited), Ronald Neame (uncredited)
Director of photography: Robert Krasker
Art direction by L.P. Williams
Film editing by Jack Harris
Sound by: Desmond Dew and Stanley Lambourne (sound recordists), Harry Miller (sound editor)

United Kingdom
Duration: 86 minutes
Languages: English
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Cinematographic process: Spherical
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Printed film format: 35mm

A Noel Coward – Cineguild Production
Released in USA by Universal Pictures
Premiered in the United Kingdom on 26 November 1945
USA release date: 24 August 1946

Awards and honors: - Cannes Film Festival, 1946: Grand Prize of the Festival (won) - Academy Awards (USA), 1946: Best Director, David Lean (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1946: Best Actress in a Leading Role, Celia Johnson (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1946: Best Writing – Screenplay, Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean, Ronald Neame
- NYFCC Awards, 1946: Best Actress, Celia Johnson (won) - National Board of Review: one of the top ten films of 1946