While it probably isn’t as impressive today as it seemed when it was new, David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945) is one of those films that you can’t quite get away from. There’s something so potent about its mixture of doomed illicit love and Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto that it appears to be indelible. For instance, I hadn’t seen the film since sometime in the 1970s, but when the students in The History Boys (2006) spontaneously performed a scene from it, I not only knew what it was, I found I knew most of the blasted dialogue. Yet, it’s not a film I ever felt the need to return to (obviously), nor have I felt so subsequently. But it apparently lies there slumbering. Detailing a chance meeting in a railway waiting room between a married woman (Celia Johnson) and an also married doctor (Trever Howard) who find soon themselves in an affair (more spiritual than fleshly), the film is the last word in civilized infidelity. How could it be otherwise when it originated with Noël Coward? It caused quite a fuss when it came out (and got itself banned in Ireland) by taking what was termed a sympathetic view of adultery. It’s hardly likely to shock anyone very much today, but its very human approach to the material still makes it a solid and treasured minor classic. Plus it’s kind of nice to see David Lean in such a quiet, intimate mode rather than his later epic-making one.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show Brief Encounter at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 25, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.