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Brian McFarlane

disruptive trains and stations have been for Laura. The idea of the railway station as a place of meetings and departures has figured in many of the films referred to in this book, especially in Chapter 6 . More so than airports or bus stops, railway stations allow close-ups of those meetings and, especially, departures, after which there is a curious sense of desolation when the person farewelling is left on the empty platform. As Raymond Durgnat wrote of railway stations: ‘From the platform the rails stretch away. Even when the terminal is a

in The never-ending Brief Encounter
Author: Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane’s The never-ending Brief Encounter is above all a book intended for those who have seen and never forgotten the famous 1945 film in which two decent, middle-class people meet by chance, unexpectedly fall in love, but in the end acknowledge the claims of others. The book grew out of an article, the writing of which revealed that there was so much more to the after-life of the film than the author had realised. This book examines David Lean’s film in sufficient detail to bring its key situations vividly to life, and to give an understanding of how it reworks Nöel Coward’s somewhat static one-act play to profound effect. It also examines the ways in which the ‘comic relief’ is made to work towards the poignant ending. However, the main purpose of the book is to consider the remarkable after-life the film has given rise to. The most specific examples of this phenomenon are, of course, the appalling film remake with its miscast stars, and the later stage versions – both bearing the original title and attracting well-known players and positive audience and critical response – and an opera! As well, there are films and TV series which have ‘quoted’ the film (usually via black-and-white inserts) as commentary on the action of the film or series. There are many other films that, without direct quotation, seem clearly to be echoing their famous predecessor; for example, in the haunting visual quality of a deserted railway platform.

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Sam Rohdie

Investigations (1) The credit sequence of Bertolucci’s Strategia del ragno (1970) takes place against brightly coloured, schematic naif images of animals and objects painted by Ligabue. The opening entry into the film is to the make-believe fairyland of the primitive created by the painter. The narrative opens with the arrival of Athos Magnani, the younger, the son of Athos Magnani, the elder, with the same name, at the railway station in the town of Tara. The father is an anti-fascist hero, murdered, so the story goes, by fascists in 1936. Father and son

in Film modernism
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Brian McFarlane

’t know what to do about it.’ 7 He, Frank Raftis (Robert De Niro), is involved in the construction industry, though at what level is never wholly clear, and she, Molly Gilmore (Meryl Streep), is a freelance graphic designer. The film opens (unsurprisingly) on a railway platform, where Molly is waiting for her train, then boards it just as Frank comes racing in and sits behind her. After disembarking, they are later seen at the station of their destination talking into adjacent public telephones, later buying Christmas presents for their spouses, and then on escalators

in The never-ending Brief Encounter
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Brian McFarlane

without seeming to be in the least alienated by the vast social changes of the intervening decades. There were, of course, other aspects of the film to which they responded, such as the noir element in the cinematography or the effect of the comic couple of railway employees involved in their own relationship – mirroring that of their social betters – or the class issues that resonate in the film, or the atmospheric use of the railway station in which much of the action is set. Above all, though, it was their willingness to engage with the

in The never-ending Brief Encounter
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Brian McFarlane

Speelman, had been directing a group of actors at the Edinburgh fringe in a play called The Fitzrovia Hour , based on a 1950s radio programme. These actors agreed to appear in a short promotional video drawing on Brief Encounter , which the potters planned to use to market their ceramics in the US, believing that the 1945 film’s ‘quintessentially British’ qualities would help their sales. 6 It was filmed in Whitstable in a restaurant that, for Brymer Jones, ‘had all the attributes for the aesthetic feel of a railway station waiting/tea room’. This is a clever

in The never-ending Brief Encounter
French filmmaking in the suburbs, 1896–1920
Roland-François Lack

large wrought-iron letter ‘R’, for Romainville, but usually the generic urban space seen in these films comes with no labels attached and features no landmarks. If a railway station is seen, care is taken not to show its name. In Zigoto et l’affaire du collier (Gaumont, 1911) the unnamed station is at Villemomble; narrative logic suggests it is somewhere near the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. This same suburban station appears the same year in La Tare (Gaumont, 1911), but there it is supposed to be in the South of France. In this instance, the eagle-eyed local

in Screening the Paris suburbs
Brian McFarlane

-upper-lipped restraint Alec and Laura’s middle-class background imposes on them. The sense of clear-cut class distinction may also have been a way of locating the film in a time at remove from 1945, when the effect of wartime life was expected to have made such distinction less obvious. So, ‘comic relief’ may not wholly account for their function in the film. The interior scenes of the film were shot in Denham Studios, where the railway buffet scenes were reconstructed, but the station scenes – platforms, corridors, rails – were filmed in Carnforth in north

in The never-ending Brief Encounter
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Brian McFarlane

this book, Truly Madly Deeply opens at a railway station, this time Highgate Underground London, from which Nina (Juliet Stevenson) emerges. The importance of the separations of travel, and especially as depicted in railway stations (the subject of a later chapter), recurs as images of meeting and departure. Nina is still in a state of grief over the death of husband Jamie (Alan Rickman) when he suddenly reappears from the hereafter, and in very corporeal form, in her flat. The key line may be Nina’s ‘Thank you for coming back’ – even if he brings along a group of

in The never-ending Brief Encounter
Jack Clayton’s Room at the Top
B. F. Taylor

history of British cinema. Black and white images of industrial landscapes, railway stations and a young man arriving somewhere with a raincoat folded over his arm are instantly evocative of a certain time and place in the history of British cinema. Yet the delight of this evocation is tinged with an element of danger and this is because repeated meetings with moments like this one can give rise to an overfamiliarity. The result of this is that the features that define these moments can attract a powerful critical contempt. This was certainly the case for Thomas

in The British New Wave