Sunday, January 8, 2012

David Lean Double Feature

In December, I stopped by the Stanford Theater to see two films directed by David Lean.

Great Expectations starring John Mills & Valerie Hobson; with Alec Guinness & Jean Simmons; directed by David Lean; (1946)
Brief Encounter starring Celia Johnson & Trevor Howard; directed by David Lean; (1945)


A few years ago, I saw a stage production of Brief Encounter at ACT. The play mixed footage from the David Lean film as segues between scenes. Director Emma Rice very cleverly incorporated scenes from the film into the live production. I remember being very entertained & impressed by the play.

When I saw Brief Encounter on the calendar this December at the Stanford, I made time in my schedule to go down to Palo Alto to see it. I'm not sure if my familiarity with the film was because I've seen it before or because I saw the play two years ago. Regardless, the film stood on its own merits and provoked an emotional response.

I think as I get older, I become more sentimental. There is not much opportunity for sentimentality in real life so I am more moved by it in fiction than when I was younger and not as cynical. So it was that Brief Encounter's tale of unconsummated love moved me deeply. Bound by social more and her of sense decency, Celia Johnson's Laura is unwilling to cheat on her husband with similarly married Alec (Trevor Howard).

What makes me equally sad is that the plot of Brief Encounter is foreign and anachronistic to so many people today. By today's standards, Laura choice would be considered cowardly or a needless sacrifice. However by the standards of 1945, Laura's choice is, perhaps not brave, but necessarily selfless.

Putting aside my conservative nature in matters of propriety, Brief Encounter is an extremely well made film. I was left as conflicted as Laura - I wanted her to follow her heart but I knew it would make her miserable. Celia Johnson & Trevor Howard give outstanding performances.


Great Expectations, based on the Charles Dickens novel, left me uninterested. Like Dickens' novels, Great Expectations was full of characters & coincidences which meander at a leisurely pace. It was interesting to see a young Alec Guinness as Pip's roommate Pocket and an even younger Jean Simmons as a young Estella but otherwise I quickly grew bored with the film. Perhaps I was anxious for Brief Encounter to start.

No comments: