Brief Encounter
Sometimes, the iconic shot is the iconic shot for a reason. Sometimes, it’s more than just a pretty picture or a hero pose. Sometimes it can actually encapsulate the entire narrative in one frame.

This is one of those times.

Brief Encounter is about an affair. It’s not a tawdry affair really – certainly not by modern standards – but it’s still one that’s very charged, and very wrong. It begins innocently enough, as many affairs do, but soon both people involved feel a longing for the other. Up until the point depicted above, things have actually been rather tame…rather pleasant. One might almost believe that these are just two people who enjoy each-other’s company. Almost. If they did feel as though these two ships were merely passing in the night, this moment dispels that idea.

It’s here that Dr. Harvey makes his move. He steps in closer to Laura Jesson than he ever has before and steals a kiss. It’s hurried, it’s feverish, it’s something they both know is very wrong. Consider the place, for starters. As passionate a tale as this is, their kiss doesn’t occur in a rowboat on the pond, or in the balcony at the pictures. Instead, their kiss is shared in the grimy concrete corridor that runs under the train tracks. On a scale of eroticism, it ranks slightly above “in front of a dumpster”. Yet, like so many things that are “wrong”, there’s something about the way this image is captured that still makes it look enticing. Perhaps it’s all those improbable shadows, or the way those rivets in the steel seem to draw a line straight to them.

From this distance, it’s a little hard to see, but Laura’s expression is another clue that what’s happening isn’t right. We can see the tension in her neck, and her face has that odd mix of desire and panic. She is experiencing feelings she has never felt with her husband…feverish feelings that are both alluring, and very wrong. It’s as if she has been spending the night dousing the place in gasoline, is ready to strike a match but has hesitations right as she holds the matchstick to the strike pad. Up until now, all of her time spent with the Doctor can be passed off as “just good company”…but if she kisses him, she knows that story falls apart.

That’s what this moment and this shot embody: The moment the match is struck.

Everything up until now has still had a bad pang of emotional infidelity to it. While we are unaware of how Laura came to be married to the man she married, she is nonetheless a married mother of two. Something inside of her must know what she’s doing is inappropriate, because she is ducking acquaintances and making up lies to cover her tracks. So perhaps, in this hurried moment in a dark train corridor, she is thinking “why not?”. If she has already gone to this length of deception – changed her routine, opened herself up, covered her tracks – why not sample the physical affections of another? She knows full-well why not, and that’s why the moment is as fleeting as it is.

Still, like this shot, it’s charged, it’s panicked, it’s elicit, and it’s fleeting. Yes indeed, this encounter is so very, very brief.


Three more from BRIEF ENCOUNTER for the road…


Flames of Passion



This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far