Tag Archives: David Lean

The David Lean Blogathon Concludes

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A huge thank you to all of you who joined me for this blogathon celebrating director David Lean. 

You all submitted terrific and very varied articles on his films. I liked that we ended up getting a good balance in the submitted articles between his smaller films and his epics.

You can read all of the entries here.

Thanks again. I hope you all enjoyed taking part. 

The David Lean Blogathon Begins

David Lean 3.PNGThe big day has finally arrived! Over the next two days, several truly wonderful bloggers are going to be submitting their reviews and articles about David Lean’s films.

A big thank you to all of you for joining me for this blogathon.I can’t wait to read all of the entries celebrating the life and career of this gifted director.

Check back to this post over the next two days as I update it to link back to all of the entries. 

 

Day 2 Entries

Silver Screen Classics writes about the epic romance Doctor Zhivago

 

Cinematic Scribblings takes a look at Lean’s family saga This Happy Breed.

 

Retromoviebuff discusses Lean’s spooky and funny film Blithe Spirit.

 

Movierob heads to Venice with David Lean’s Summertime.

 

Vinnieh talks about his love for the epic David Lean film Doctor Zhivago.

 

Cinema Essentials writes about the man himself in Director Profile: David Lean.

 

Poppity shares her love for the underrated Ryan’s Daughter. She also writes about one of David Lean’s lesser known films Madeleine.

 

Day 1 Entries

Realweegiemidgetreviews takes a look at the trailer for Lean’s epic film Doctor Zhivago. She also looks at Lean’s WW2 set classic The Bridge On The River Kwai.

 

Movierob shares his thoughts after a first time viewing of The Passionate Friends.

 

Poppity takes a look at Lean’s charming film Hobson’s Choice.

 

Caftan Woman discusses one of the greatest of David Lean’s films Great Expectations.

 

The Stop Button shares his thoughts on Lean’s aviation drama The Sound Barrier.

 

The Wonderful World Of Cinema discusses Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence Of Arabia.

 

I discuss David Lean’s stunning adaptation of Charles Dickens classic story Oliver Twist.

The David Lean Blogathon: Oliver Twist(1948)

David Lean 1This is my entry for my David Lean blogathon being held next Friday and Saturday. I can’t wait to read all of your entries. There is still time to sign up and join the fun if you haven’t already done so.

For this blogathon I have decided to write about Oliver Twist. This is a film that I consider to be David Lean’s best directorial effort after Lawrence Of Arabia. Everything about this film is stunning. You can really see David Lean’s attention to the smallest of details in every single shot in this film.

I don’t use the word masterpiece very often, but I think that this film undoubtedly qualifies as being one. The film is very dark and bleak and Lean sensibly doesn’t shy away from showing us just how brutal and terrible the time period the film is set in was. Despite its immense level of bleakness, there are however some wonderful moments of humour to be found in this film. There are also some terrific Dickensian character names to enjoy. 

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Oliver asks for more food. Screenshot by me.

David Lean is my favourite British film director. He was a master of his craft and I like that he put such care and attention into even the smallest details and scenes appearing in his films. If I ever had to list a handful of directors who I consider to be the greatest to have ever worked, then David Lean would be right near the top. 

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One of many stunning shots seen in the film. Screenshot by me.

I like David Lean so much because he was able to perfectly balance intimate human stories, against epic and visually stunning backdrops. In Lean’s films the characters always come first and he doesn’t rely on effects or use intrusive editing. 

David Lean made many fine films in his career. Some of his best work was completed in the 1940’s. In this decade he made two films which were adaptations of Charles Dickens novels; the first film was Great Expectations(1946), and the other was Oliver Twist(1948). Lean was able to recreate the Victorian era so well in both of these films. 

I love how in Oliver Twist, Lean manages to capture the great hardships faced by the poor and working classes in Victorian era Britain. This film perfectly captures the grime, the poverty, and the outright misery of the time. It also conveys to us the gaping class divide of the time; with the poor starving and living in utter squalor, while the rich ignore their plight and gorge themselves on delicious food and live in luxury. 

                          Hungry boys watch the workhouse staff eating. Screenshot by me.

This gaping divide and lifestyle of the different classes is perfectly captured in a scene at the workhouse. Some of the boys are watching the staff of the workhouse tuck into a huge roast dinner. Those who live in the workhouse only get a small bowl of gruel and a piece of bread each day.

If the poor steal to ensure they get food they are severely punished and looked down upon by the rich and by the law. No matter what they did, the poor living in this era just couldn’t get a break. Dickens novel and this film give a face to poverty, to suffering and to injustice. 

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Oliver giving a face to the nameless children living in poverty. Screenshot by me.

I think it was a genius idea for Dickens to make Oliver a child. Even though the story is set in a time when children tended to grow up psychologically more quickly than they do now, the amount of horrible and unjust things Oliver endures make the reader and viewer angry about these things happening to Oliver.

As readers, Dickens makes us fear for Oliver and become protective of him as the story goes along. In turn this then makes us think about the real children who lived this life during the Victorian era.  Oliver may well be a fictional character, but he represents all the real children of this time who lived in poverty, who were forced into child labour, and who often died long before their time of disease or injury. David Lean’s film manages to have the same effect on the viewer in my opinion.

I consider this film to be the best adaptation of Oliver Twist that has ever been made. It is so good precisely because it makes you feel that you are there in that miserable time period suffering right alongside Oliver. David Lean also makes sure his film sticks very closely to the book, and while it doesn’t manage to capture everything found in the book, it certainly does a better job of it than most other adaptations have managed to do. My only big issue with this film is that I don’t think that the character of Nancy is given as much screen time as in other adaptations, but Kay Walsh who plays her does her best to make Nancy’s appearances memorable. Kay also conveys Nancy’s strength and determination quite well. 

I also love this film so much because it contains some of the most striking and unforgettable images in film history. Many of David Lean’s films contain such moments, but in this film, almost every single shot is like a work of art and so many of the scenes are hard to forget. The cinematography in this film is by Guy Green, who had won an Oscar for his work in Lean’s Great ExpectationsGuy would later go on to become a film director himself, with two of his most notable films being A Patch Of Blue and The Angry SilenceGuy worked wonders on the cinematography side of things on Oliver Twist.  

The opening scene of this film is a total work of art. Oliver’s heavily pregnant mother is struggling across the rain swept moors at night to get to a workhouse. During her journey she goes into labour. Right away this scene shows us how difficult and harsh this time period is. Each time she gets a contraction the pain coincides with a flash of lighting, or with a thorny branch swaying and shaking in the fierce wind. These images of the storm and branches clearly symbolise the agony of her labour pains.

Part of the opening scene. Screenshot by me. 

The lighting in this sequence is incredible throughout. The sequence ends with this woman collapsing at the workhouse gate and being brought inside to give birth. The camera then cuts outside to show us later that night, when the storm has ended but it is still dark outside. A cloud slowly moves across the sky and splits in two, when it does this it looks to me like a pair of open legs; the moon then slowly emerges from between the split cloud, and when it does so, we hear the cries of the woman’s baby as he emerges into the world. I love this moment so much because of how the cloud imagery symbolises Oliver’s birth. 

Oliver Twist (John Howard Davies)is the baby who is born that night. His mother dies not long after she gives birth. Oliver is raised in the workhouse and endures a miserable life under the control of the pompous Mr. Bumble(played by a scene stealing Francis L. Sullivan), and the short tempered Matron (Mary Clare).

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Oliver meets Dodger. Screenshot by me.

One day, after having had the cheek to ask for more food, Oliver is sold to a local undertaker to work in his shop.

After being treated appallingly there, young Oliver decides he has had enough of this life and so he runs away to London. 

When he gets to London, he meets the skilled young pickpocket, The Artful Dodger (Anthony Newley). Dodger takes him to Fagin (Alec Guinness), an old thief who trains young boys in the art of theft, and gets them to bring him things they have stolen in return for a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Soon Oliver feels welcome and happy with this group. He quickly settles in and is accepted as one of the gang. On his first time out on a pickpocket job with Dodger, Oliver is wrongly accused of stealing a wallet. The wallet is actually taken by Dodger who manages to run away and not get caught. 

The owner of the wallet is the kindly, wealthy gentleman, Mr. Brownlow(Henry Stephenson). He takes pity on Oliver and after a witness to the theft clears Oliver of any wrongdoing, Brownlow takes Oliver home and looks after him. For the first time in his life Oliver knows real love and kindness.

I’m sure most of you reading have seen this film or read the book, but if you haven’t done so, please turn back now because there are some major spoilers ahead!

Sadly Oliver’s new found happiness doesn’t last and he is kidnapped by Fagin’s dangerous associate, Bill Sykes(Robert Newton)and Bill’s kind-hearted, prostitute girlfriend, Nancy(Kay Walsh, who was married to David Lean at the time this film was made)due to them and Fagin being anxious that Oliver will give them all up to the Police.

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The fearless Nancy. Screenshot by me.

Nancy is wracked with guilt over bringing Oliver back, and she bravely risks her own life to try and set Oliver free from this life of misery and crime. Nancy tries to get Oliver back to Mr. Brownlow and she pays for this with her life when she is discovered by Bill and he murders her. 

The murder of Nancy is one of most powerful scenes in the whole film, and it manages to be horrific and chilling without us ever seeing the murder graphically depicted. The yelping and shaking dog trying frantically to escape the room as Nancy is murdered is unforgettable. The dogs noises are mixed together with Nancy’s screams, and combined together those noises make for a sound that chills you to the bone.

                               The aftermath of Nancy’s murder. Screenshot by me.

I like that Lean shows us Bill’s slowly dawning realisation to what he has just done. His eyes dart around the room when he realises he has killed Nancy. Bill’s eyes focus on Nancy’s possessions and land upon things that remind him of their shared life together, items such as their double bed and her dressing table. As he looks around the room we see that Bill is absolutely horrified at what he has gone and destroyed.

The great tragedy of the film is that while Bill was a violent and nasty piece of work, he genuinely loved Nancy and she loved him in return. When Bill kills her he also murders any possibility of himself ever being able to be redeemed. He instantly regrets his actions and he realises that he can’t alter what he has done. This sends him mad with grief and remorse. 

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The kind Mr.Brownlow and Oliver. Screenshot by me.

Despite how bleak the film is there are some kind and decent characters to be found in it.  Mr. Brownlow shows us that not everyone in the upper classes was indifferent to the suffering of the poor, and he is a genuinely kind and gentle man.

Nancy retains her sense of morality despite living among thieves and criminals, and despite having done some bad things herself. Nancy can’t stand to see the innocent Oliver get drawn into this life, and so she tries to save him from having to live this way.

The old woman at the workhouse who stole Oliver’s mum’s necklace has a conscience, and she tries to make things right before she dies(only to be betrayed afterwards by the matron).  The film also shows us that some people get drawn into a life of theft because they have no other choice. When someone is homeless, jobless and starving, if nobody will help them when they ask for help politely, what choice is left to that person other than to steal to get some money for food etc?

The actors all deliver solid performances. I like that even the actors who appear very briefly get their chance to really shine.  There are also many standout performances from the main cast.

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Robert Newton as Bill Sykes. Screenshot by me.

Robert Newton delivers one of his finest performances as the terrifying master thief, Bill Sykes. I’m always torn between Robert and Oliver Reed when it comes to considering who played the best Bill Sykes on film. I think Oliver plays the scariest and most sinister, but Robert managed to be scary and still convey how sharp and observant Bill was, and he also convinces us that his Bill genuinely loves Nancy.

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Alec Guinness as Fagin. Screenshot by me.

Lean regular Alec Guinness pulls a Lon Chaney Sr and is unrecognisable beneath heavy makeup as Fagin. Alec’s portrayal is not as fun and loveable as Ron Moody’s in the musical Oliver. Alec makes Fagin sordid and cunning. There was some controversy over Alec’s performance and over the Fagin makeup (especially the large nose) because of how the portrayal of this character was anti-semitic.  

John Howard Davies is all sad eyes and innocence as Oliver Twist. John delivers an excellent debut performance here and he would continue acting during the 1940’s and 50’s. He later became a producer and was the man behind the British TV comedy hits Fawlty Towers and The Good Life.

Oliver Twist is one of Lean’s finest film. I think it could also serve as a perfect example to young filmmakers on how to balance story, characters, performances and visuals to create a film which will stand the test of time and wow audiences from any era.

What do you think of the film?

Announcing The David Lean Blogathon

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You are all invited to take part in my latest blogathon. This one is being held to celebrate the career of the British film director David Lean.

He has become my favourite director. I especially love his ability to make films which balanced intimate human drama and epic backdrops. I also like how much care and effort went into his films in order to achieve certain shots, or in recreating a bygone era. He was truly a master of his craft. 

The blogathon will be held for two days on July 20th and 21st, 2018. You can write about any of David Lean’s films and I will be accepting two duplicates per film. As well as writing about his films, you could also write posts about Lean as a director, about his entire career, your favourite actors in his films, or you could focus separately on his smaller films or on his epics. You can write more than one entry if you want to.

Check the participation list below to see who is writing about what.

Please take one of the banners from below and pop it on your site somewhere to help promote this event. More importantly have fun writing! 

Participation List

Maddylovesherclassicfilms:  Oliver Twist

Cinematic Scribblings: This Happy Breed

Silver Screen Classics: Doctor Zhivago 

Realweegiemidgetreviews: Trailer reviews of Bridge On The River Kwai and Doctor Zhivago

Caftan Woman: Great Expectations

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest: Brief Encounter

Poppity: Hobson’s Choice and Madeleine

Vinnieh: Doctor Zhivago

Retro Movie Buff: Blithe Spirit

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: Lawrence Of Arabia

The Stop Button: The Sound Barrier

MovieRob: Summertime and The Passionate Friends

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The Free For All Blogathon: This Happy Breed (1944)

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Theresa over at Cinemaven’sessaysfromthecouch is hosting this blogathon. We have all been allowed to write about any topic we want, just as long as it is film related.

Click on the link below to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

https://cinemavensessaysfromthecouch.wordpress.com/2018/01/05/the-free-for-all-blogathon/ 

I’ve decided to write about David Lean and Noel Coward’s film This Happy Breed. The film focuses on a working class/lower middle class British family. The film takes place between 1919 and the start of WW2. The film is based upon Noel Coward’s 1939 stage play of the same name.   

I think that this film really honours its stage bound beginnings. There are a large majority of the films scenes which take place indoors, and there is an almost claustrophobic feel about the film as the camera makes it seem as though we are in that house with this family.The film also has many external sequences too. This is also a film where the actors are allowed to carry the film and are our main focus. Personally this is the sort of filmmaking I prefer. Give me films like this any day,rather than those where effects carry the film and the story and characters are sidelined. 

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Ethel, Frank and Bob have a chat. Screenshot by me.

David Lean has become my favourite film director. I like him so much because he was one of the few directors who was able to make films which were both epic and intimate. Not every director can pull that off, but David Lean certainly had the knack. He really knew how to get the balance between the intimate and the epic just right in his films. I think that this particular film is one of the best examples of his ability to be able to meld those two things together. 

This Happy Breed is an extremely intimate character study set against an epic backdrop of the historical change in Britain during the first part of the twentieth century. This film is also notable for being Lean’s first solo outing as a director. David Lean first got into the British film industry in the late 1920’s, and he worked as a film editor for many years. In 1942 he teamed up with Noel Coward to co-direct In Which We Serve. The pair would go on to work together again on three other films – This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit and Brief Encounter. With these films, the talents and abilities of David Lean became abundantly clear to audiences and critics alike. 

I really love This Happy Breed for several other reasons too. I love this film because when I watch it I always feel as though I am watching the life and experiences of a real family. It’s like I am there in that house with these people. Setting the film in a house also makes us in the audience the direct witnesses to the private life of this family. I think that in a way we in the audience become the walls of the house, (remember the old saying “if walls could talk”?) as we bear witness to what happens to this family as the years pass them by. The house also becomes another character in the film and the house set really comes across as though it is a real lived in home. 

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Robert Newton as the decent Frank Gibbons. Screenshot by me.

I also love the film because Robert Newton and Celia Johnson’s characters remind me so much of my grandparents.

Grandad was just like Robert Newton’s character is in the film, he was a quiet man who didn’t speak all that much. When he did speak it was because he had something very meaningful to say. He loved his family and his garden more than anything else. 

Grandad never spoke to us (not sure if he ever spoke to Gran about it either)about his war service (he served in WW2) but he regularly met up with Bill who was his best mate. He and Bill had served together and they would meet up pretty much every weekend.

Much like Stanley Holloway’s character does in this film, Bill would speak quite openly and regularly about what he and granddad had been through in the war. I actually learnt so much from him. His stories made me admire his and my granddad’s courage so much.

I wished then that I had fully understood the importance of what granddad had been a part of when he was alive. If I had known, I would have asked him so many questions (whether he would have answered me is of course another question) and told him thank you for what he did. 

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Celia Johnson as the strong willed Ethel. Screenshot by me.

My Gran was just like Celia Johnson’s character is in the film. She was house proud, strong, and she was also one of those people who you thought would always be there. She never wanted to appear weak, nor did she ever want to waste time.

She adored my granddad, and to him she was a queen whom he was extremely protective of. Their love for one another was very evident, he was always quick to tell her if he thought she was doing too much. I lost my gran over a year ago now.   

I am sure I can’t be the only one who watches this film and is reminded of people who they know or knew in real life. As well as making the characters come across as realistic, I also think that Lean’s film captures the determined and unyielding personalities of the generation who lived at that time. They had it tough, but they didn’t let it break them down. Instead they used their experiences to make themselves stronger and made sure they cherished what they held most dear.  

The film begins in 1919. The pointless slaughter of the First World War has just ended. An entire generation of men have been wiped out. The scarred survivors of the trenches are coming home to their loved ones. These men just want a quiet life with their loved ones and need time to readjust and live a normal life. This film follows the experiences of the Gibbons family.   

                          Ethel and Frank share a kiss and an afternoon in the park. Screenshots by me.

The film begins with the family moving into a new house in the suburbs of London. The family consists of the mild mannered Frank (Robert Newton), his steadfast wife Ethel (Celia Johnson), their three children – quiet and dependable Vi (Eileen Erskine), hugely dissatisfied Queenie(Kay Walsh) and the idealistic Reg(John Blythe).

Also moving in are Ethel’s mum (Amy Veness) and Frank’s hypochondriac sister, Sylvia(Alison Leggatt), these two squabble something fierce and provide the comedy of the film. The family also bring with them their tabby cat, Percy. Frank is delighted to find a friend living nearby, a former comrade from the trenches called Bob (Stanley Holloway).  We follow this family and their friends through their good and bad times. We see them experience the turbulent events of the next twenty plus years. Events depicted in the background include – strikes, the rise of Hitler, changes in British government and monarchs, the depression, changing fashion and music, and the ever growing threat of another world war.

Stanley Holloway provides strong support as Frank’s loud and fun best friend Bob. John Mills is kind and dependable as Billy, the boy who loves Queenie with all his heart and soul. 

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Frank and Ethel receive some terrible news. Screenshot by me.

If I have any criticisms of this film it is that perhaps the family are shown to be a bit too happy with their lot, even when enduring times of great stress and pain. They rarely complain about what they are enduring. I know this depiction plays into the whole stiff upper lip thing, and that it gets across the strength of this generation. I am certain though that people in this time must have had plenty of bad days, where getting up and facing their tough times head on was a real struggle for them. I don’t think they were as uncomplaining and accepting as they are depicted as being here.   

I also really wish that some sequences had lasted longer- such as the family day out at the Great Exhibition and the wedding day sequence. I also wish there was a bit more focus upon the aftermath of Frank and Ethel receiving the news of the death of someone very dear to them.I also wish that the film itself had a much longer running time. This is one of those films that I never want to end and am always disappointed when I rewatch this and it ends so quickly (it’s barely two hours long).

Kay Walsh and John Mills. Screenshots by me.

I also think that John Mills and Kay Walsh (although both delivering excellent and moving performances)were far too old for their respective roles. I do think that Kay was superb in her role of the young woman who feels trapped in her life and class. Kay really does make me feel Queenie’s desperation to escape her current situation and move on to something better.

Despite those minor complaints this film really is very good indeed. There are strong performances from all in the cast. I think Robert Newton delivers the standout performance in the film. If you are only familiar with Robert as the over the top Long John Silver, then you should really check him out in this flick. His performance is extremely subtle and quite touching. Watch his eyes and his face in this because they sure speak volumes. Robert brings Frank to life and makes him utterly believable.  

Fans of Lean’s work will have fun noticing Kay Walsh and Robert Newton play father and daughter here. Just four years later they would go on to play the ill fated lovers Bill and Nancy in one of Lean’s finest films, Oliver Twist

I also love the depiction of the marriage between Frank and Ethel. These two stay with each other through thick and thin. They clearly adore one another and Robert and Celia make us believe that they would be lost without one another. This couple accept each others flaws and they cherish every moment they have together. This is a marriage that is very rarely found nowadays. These days people are so often out the door at the first sign of any difficulty. I like that these two remind us that a good marriage is one that is worked at and is valued.  

I also really adore Queenie and Billy’s relationship. Queenie comes across as someone who is above her class, she wants to be something other than ordinary, and she can’t see a good thing (Billy)when it is right in front of her. I love how Billy waits for her to come to her senses and doesn’t judge her.  

My favourite scenes are the following. Frank and Ethel receiving some terrible news about Reg (this scene serves as a masterclass in how to convey shock and grief without going over the top. It also shows that quite often the best thing is for the camera to simply remain still and capture the actors performances, these performances will tell the audience all they need to know.) Frank saying he doesn’t care what happens to him as long as he has Ethel. Billy bringing Queenie back to her parents. The family arriving at their new home and starting to clean the place up and unpack. Frank and Reg talking about their opposing views about the General Strike. Frank, Vi and Sylvia talking about Chamberlain declaring “peace in our time”. Frank, Bob and Ethel saying goodbye. Queenie leaving a letter to her parents. Queenie dancing.

What do you think of this film? 

 

Unsung Classics 2: The Passionate Friends(1949)

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Today I’m focusing on this British romantic drama, which stars Trevor Howard, Claude Rains and Ann Todd. I find it so hard to choose just one film as my all time favourite, but if I had to choose just one, I really do think this film might well be it. It really makes you feel for the three characters and the difficult situation that they find themselves in. It features some terrific acting, beautiful location work, interesting photography, and it is a fantastic character piece.  

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Mary and Steven enjoy a fast boat ride. Screenshot by me.

If you think that H.G Wells only wrote science fiction, then you really need to think again. In 1913, his novel about adultery, called The Passionate Friends was published. This film written by Eric Ambler and directed by David Lean is based upon Wells’s novel. I’ve never read the novel, but from the write up I’ve found online I think I’d be better off sticking with the screen adaptation, as the original story doesn’t actually sound like my cup of tea. I may check it out at some point if I ever come across it.

Mary Justin(Ann Todd)is married to Howard Justin(Claude Rains), a much older man who is very wealthy. At a New Year’s Eve party, Mary runs into her former lover Steven Stratton(Trevor Howard)and discovers that she still has feelings for him. The pair strike up a friendship and keep in touch, but neither one can deny their romantic attraction.

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Howard and Mary enjoy a happy moment together on New Year’s Eve. Screenshot by me.

Howard discovers their affair and he puts an end to it, or at least he thinks he does. Nine years later in a Swiss hotel, Mary and Steven meet again, and once again they discover that they can’t deny their feelings. Mary has to choose which man she will stay with.

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Mary and Steven in Switzerland. Screenshot by me.

Not only is Mary now torn between two different men, but she must also choose between two very different types of love – the physical and the emotional. The physical and some of the emotinal is represented by Steven who is passionate, tender and expressive; there is also the emotional side of love and companionship in the form of Howard, who is more reserved, gentle, and very set in his ways. Both men love her very much, but with which man (and which type of love) does she find herself happiest with?

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Howard tells Mary how he feels about her having an affair. Screenshot by me.

I like how this film doesn’t judge the three characters for the choices they make. All three find themselves caught up in a very upsetting and difficult situation. We sympathise with each of the three characters as the film goes on. A situation like this love triangle can and does happen often in life. Such a love triangle is not easy or pleasant for those involved in it. Imagine how hard it must be to choose between two loves, or to leave both and start your life again. This film shows us how wonderful, painful, and most of all how all encompassing love and desire can be. 

In many ways I think that this film mirrors David Lean’s earlier classic, the 1945 romantic drama, Brief Encounter. In fact you could almost view this film as a sequel to that film, with Trevor Howard appearing in both films and also playing a doctor in both. The Passionate Friends rather mirrors the plot of the first film by having the dull but loving husband; a woman desperate for love who finds herself torn between one lover and another; both films also contain a scene at a train station where a main character contemplates suicide, and both of these suicide consideration sequences feature a shot of a bright light glowing on the face of the character as they stand contemplating this act.

Ann Todd is superb as the young woman struggling against her own feelings and not really wanting to hurt either of these men, but knowing whichever choice she makes will end up hurting one of them.

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Ann Todd as Mary. Screenshot by me.

Ann Todd was married to David Lean a the time they made this film, and she also appeared in some of his other films. Ann is an actress who deserved many more film roles in my opinion. Ann is a very expressive actress and in this film she doesn’t need words in most scenes as her face tells us all we need to know(particularly during the tube station finale.) Mary goes from being quite a reserved and glacial woman, to being a woman full of life and glowing with joy, and finally to a woman wracked with guilt and pain. 

This film features my all time favourite Claude Rains performance. He is heartbreaking as the man who knows what is going on under his nose, doesn’t like it, but finds he is incapable of giving up the woman he loves so much.

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Claude as Howard. Screenshot by me.

Claude also makes us really feel for Howard Justin and makes him likeable, which makes the situation even more poignant all round. I especially love him in the scene where he confronts Mary and Steven and they realise he knows about them; Claude owns that scene and makes it quite funny.

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Trevor Howard as Steven. Screenshot by me.

Trevor Howard is very good as the outgoing, earnest younger man, who is desperately trying to start again with the woman he loves. I love him in the scene where Steven and Howard have a confrontation at Howard’s home, and in the scenes in Switzerland where Steven and Mary share some happy times.

There is some gorgeous and interesting photography in this and beautiful scenes of the Swiss lakes and mountains. The film also cleverly uses flashbacks to show us Mary and Steven’s earlier relationship and how happy and passionate they were.

My favourite scenes are the following. The New Year’s Eve party.  Howard’s outburst at Mary, which then leads us to the unforgettable finale. The entire sequence in Switzerland. The ending isn’t one you forget in a hurry and it is very moving and suspenseful. This is a film that deserves a great deal more attention. Highly recommended. If you happen to be a fan of this one, please do share your thoughts.

 

Brief Encounter (1945)

 

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Alec takes the grit from Laura’s eye. Screenshot by me.

Brief Encounter is an intimate romantic drama focusing on two married people who are torn between following their hearts and acting upon their growing feelings for one another, while also not wanting to hurt their spouses in the process. It is a film that has long held a special place in my heart.

 I love watching the relationship between Laura and Alec slowly unfold. I also love how both of them have an inner decency which makes them not fully give in to their desire for each other due to both being married, however much they actually want to be able to get together romantically and sexually. 

Brief Encounter has been imitated many times since – Falling In Love, The 7.39(TV), and even a direct remake starring Richard Burton and Sophia Loren. Although all of these are enjoyable films none of them come close to this original version in my opinion.

Laura(Celia Johnson)and Alec(Trevor Howard)meet at a railway station, and they keep running in to one another in the days that follow. A friendship develops which soon becomes something more. The catch is both are married to someone else, and neither wants to hurt their spouse. Neither can deny their growing feelings though and they will both have to decide whether to begin a relationship or not.

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Alec and Laura enjoy a happy moment. Screenshot by me.

We feel for Laura and Alec so much and because they resist their growing feelings this makes them even more sympathetic because they can’t deny the attraction, but they will not just go straight ahead and act on it either. If they had fell into each others arms and ran off together, then I highly doubt that this film would be getting discussed so much today.

It is the realism and bittersweet quality of the film which has made it a classic in my opinion. If this had been made in Hollywood, I don’t doubt that there would have been a happy and very romantic ending. While that ending would certainly have pleased audiences and fed in to the romantic ideal of a happy ending, it just wouldn’t have been realistic. In real life people don’t begin love affairs so easily and such relationships can also be very painful and messy. I also like how the films depiction of Laura and Alec’s meetings and growing feelings never feels contrived; their meetings and developing bond throughout the film feels real and believable.

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Celia Johnson as Laura. Screenshot by me.

Brief Encounter is directed by David Lean and is based upon Noel Coward’s stage play Still Life -which was set entirely in a railway waiting room.

David Lean decided to expand the action beyond the train station, and in the process he gives us glimpses of Laura’s home life with her loving and slightly dull husband (Cyril Raymond), and also shows us meetings in town between Alec and Laura.

In many scenes this film could almost be seen as a Silent film. There are many moments where the camera is close in on Celia’s face and we hear her characters thoughts, fantasies, desires in a narration; while all this is going on Celia has to also express what we hear through her expressions, and she does so expertly.

There is also another prominent couple in this film, Albert (Stanley Holloway) and Myrtle(Joyce Carey)the station master and station café manager; they enjoy an open, flirtatious relationship, whilst never seeming to ever become a couple (like Alec and Laura). These scenes also serve as some comic relief in an otherwise serious and emotional story. Margaret Barton is also good as the young café assistant(I believe she is now the only surviving cast member.)

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Alec and Laura discuss their growing feelings. Screenshot by me.

My heart breaks for Alec and Laura every time I watch this. It is obvious that they would be good for one another, and it seems to us that they genuinely do care for each other. I admire their moral strength though in not giving in to their hearts desire, that only makes me like them and pity them more. 

Can you imagine how hard it must be to give up what you want most, and just walk away and carry on as normal? That takes some real strength and determination, not everyone can be so strong in life.

The use of Rachmaninov’s music was an inspired choice I think. Today that music and this film are inseparable in many peoples minds. The music fits the film perfectly.

My favourite scenes are the following. Their cinema visits. The scene in the flat. Laura’s fantasy in the train window. The first(and as it turns out) final scene in the café and the “you know what’s happened, don’t you?” scene.

I love this scene for the story and performances, but I also enjoy watching to see a bygone era. This is the England of steam trains and to our modern view some extremely cheap prices for everything, from food to cinema tickets.

A bittersweet love story that stays with you long after the film has finished. I have no doubt that this film will continue to be effective for audiences for as long as film survives. I think that is a testament to the abilities of Lean, and also to all the cast and crew who worked on this film.

Please share your thoughts on this timeless love story. Never seen it? Get a copy of this and enjoy this deeply moving film. Be sure to see it on Blu-ray to catch it looking at its best.