By Tan Ming Hua:

Nothing lasts really.
Neither happiness nor despair.
Not even life lasts very long.


Brief Encounter by David Lean is shot and screened after World War II in 1945. It speaks of a woman giving in to her temptations and committing adultery with a man she met at the train station whom she hardly even know.

Since men were dispatched to fight for WWII, this film sorts of hints at the loyalty and faithfulness of WWII’s soldiers’ wives back home. This film garnered interest, the center of attraction, since adultery was a taboo during that time (the religious view marriage as a sacred bond between man and woman).

According to Michael Mirasol, due to this forbidden subject shone under sympathetic light, Ireland initially banned it. This film would have been looked upon in disdain had Laura and Alec attained happy ending; which is why the audience heave a sigh of relief when Laura decided to go back to her family, perhaps exclaiming they deserve it and it’s “right” to return.

According to Alain Silver, Claude Chabrol once stated that he and David Lean were the only directors working who would wait “forever” for a perfect sunset, the only difference is that he (Chabrol) measured “forever” in days buy Lean did by months. This shows that Lean was a filmmaker who placed emphasis on perfection; he would labour for days to perfect the film.

Your wide eyes as you see the world,
The tender smile you give all the time,
How shy you are and the melodious laughter,
They all seem to revolve around my mind.

How silly do you think I had been, enchanted by your sweet treats.
I dream of all the places we could go; Venice, Italy, Paris – the city of love.
All the things we can do together; dance, watch a musical, sail the seas.
Ha, these silly thoughts I came up with; silly but wondrous.

Innocent affection or scandalous affair,
Sacred and grace or sinful and disgrace?
Oh, how it makes me cry in joy and despair
And now I’m caught in this eternal chase.

Sorrow and helplessness, I drown,
Thinking about how you you are living.
Agonised, trapped in my small town,
You have to be happy.

The first stanza is an expansion on Alec Harvard’s declaration of love to Laura Jesson on their meeting the week after Alec stood Laura up.

I love you.
I love your wide eyes,
and the way you smile,
and your shyness.
The way you laugh at my jokes.
I love you. I love you. You love me too.

The second stanza is based on Laura’s thoughts and feelings towards Alec. Laura rarely expresses her thoughts and feelings, how she thinks it’s all  silly because she still  believes it’s wrong. On the train ride home after the declaration of love, she thought:

I imagined him holding me in his arms. I imagined being with him in all sorts of glamourous circumstances. It was one of those absurd fantasies, just like one has when one is a girl being wooed and married by the ideal of one’s dreams.

The third and final stanza illustrates the agony felt by due to their love for each other. The fine line between love and adultery (since they’re both married), is the only thing standing in between them. The contrast of emotions they felt. The torment both of them felt when it’s time for their last goodbye, and their longing for each other.

I really liked how Laura and Alec’s love just isn’t enough for them to continue, as though it has been predestined.  Both of them are contented with just a few days through weeks of happiness. They know when they should stop. I like how they instinctively knew their love is mutual – their body language and eye contact says it all. Even though their conscience took over – the start of their anguish – how the silence says it all, how Laura confesses.

Making them rhyme is difficult, and I try to. I tried channeling Laura and her emotions throughout the whole film, and I wanted to base her stanza on something she said. She’s the voiceover throughout, where sifting the important parts from the not-so-important ones isn’t that easy.

If you died, you’d forget me.
I want to be remembered.

Internationalcinemareview.blogspot.sg. 2012. International Cinema Review: David Lean | Brief Encounter. [online] Available at: http://internationalcinemareview.blogspot.sg/2012/03/overwhelmingdesire-by-douglas-messerli.html [Accessed: 15 Jun 2013].

Mirasol, M. 2010. “Brief Encounter”: A matter of the heart | Far Flungers | Roger Ebert. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/far-flung-correspondents/brief-encounter-a-matter-of-the-heart [Accessed: 17 Jun 2013].

Silver, A. Senses of Cinema – David Lean. [online] Available at: http://sensesofcinema.com/2004/great-directors/lean/ [Accessed: 17 Jun 2013].

Parkcircus.com. n.d.. Untitled. [online] Available at: http://www.parkcircus.com/assets/0006/1150/BE-small-final.jpg [Accessed: 21 Jun 2013].

Ming Hua lives life crossing over the lines she drew.


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