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INFIDELITY: “This can’t last. This misery can’t last. I must remember that and try to control myself.”

Movie quote from: Brief Encounter (1945) - Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson)

briefBrief Encounter is the first major motion picture about infidelity.  It was banned in Ireland in 1945 because the film honestly explored infidelity rather than condemning it.  Bad call by the Irish.  If the censors really wanted to discourage infidelity, they would have required every person in a relationship to watch the movie.  It reveals the great pain of secret love.

In the film, Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) is a happily married woman with two children and a very supportive husband.  Their relationship has become ‘comfortable’, with each adult following the familiar routines that foster a real sense of enduring trust.  

Laura meets Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) by chance at a train station; he helps her to remove a cinder from her eye.  They become friends, sharing innocent but secret time together every Thursday.  Inevitably, they feel the love and lusty cravings they felt in the initial days of dating their spouses.  However, things are not the same as those earlier days.  Those overwhelming attractions don’t rationalize well alongside the commonly held values of loyalty, fidelity, honesty, and family. 

Brief Encounter demonstrates the certain anguish of a person who chooses to live the lie of a secret life.  If you have feelings for those people in your foundational life, it is impossible to be proud of your duplicitous existence.  The pain of it all is beautifully expressed by Laura as she reflects, “This can't last. This misery can't last. I must remember that and try to control myself. Nothing lasts really, neither happiness nor despair, not even life lasts very long. There'll come a time in the future when I shan't mind about this anymore, when I can look back and say quite peacefully and cheerfully how silly I was.”  

In the end, infidelity almost always leads to pain and self-inflicted loss.  However, in the short-term, it offers a brief sense of youth and freedom.  It takes a strong person to consider others and the future when they are swept up in the emotions of the moment.  Even stronger and wiser are the people who do the work to make their ‘lifetime encounters’ the place where great passion is explored.      

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