Brian McFarlane
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As distinct from those films that directly ‘quote’ from Brief Encounter, there are many more that seem in various ways to echo it. We can’t know to what extent the filmmakers involved had Brief Encounter in mind, but the fact is that its essential scenario and moral core still retain their emotional power, despite the shifts in cultural mores, irresistibly suggesting the long shadow it casts. Those titles considered here involve, to varying degrees, a relationship whose outcome foregrounds the conflict of desire and – what? – convention, other obligations, decency and other circumstantial and/or moral pressures that one or both protagonists take into consideration. It is not simply a matter of ‘duty’ but, as well, a real concern for the well-being of other people and for one’s own self-respect, the two being intricately connected in Brief Encounter. And there are recurring images, visual and aural, that recall the old film.

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