Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brief Encounter

I'd seen this movie before, but not for a long time. It was directed by the great David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) and based on a Noel Coward play. I don't want to write a review, the plot appears quite simple and romantic, but instead write about the sort of reaction I had. It isn't so simple or romantic, and feels much more plausible than something like An Affair to Remember, Casablanca, or most romance films. It made me cry quite a bit, not just at the ending, and maybe only because my female hormones are raging or I've had some cough syrup, but it certainly did affect me and that's what I'll tell you about.

The plot concerns a 'brief encounter' between a housewife played by Celia Johnson and a married doctor played by Trevor Howard. You can imagine the ensuing doomed romance, but that isn't what moved me. The thing that struck me is something I already have always believed in, something that is a hard part of my personality to still grasp as an adult but which I still feel is so important. It's the idea that very violent, impractical emotions are not only for the very young or very bipolar, but something to be embraced and cherished, though they are often tinged with confusion or downright sadness at the time or in retrospect. I'm not saying we should all become wildly indulgent egotists or throw ourselves unabated into every little feeling that comes our way no matter the cost, but I think most adults lull themselves into believing it's possible to be safe from all emotional vulnerability if you're very judicious, even miserly with your emotional expenditures on people, on everything. People desperately need to believe that if every joy and sadness and every little annoyance and amusement in between is measured and practical, you can avoid life's pitfalls. It isn't true, and it never will be, no matter how you hide. There will always be deaths, money will be lost, possessions will break, and people will stop loving you abruptly. And it will happen over and over until you die yourself. The wonderful thing is realizing it, accepting it, and embracing opportunities to feel, to be human, to give over to yourself whenever possible.

Someone once told me that he thought no one wants to be vulnerable, no one wants to expose themselves to the possibility of pain or humiliation, that it's a horrible thing, but I could never express to you here in words how i absolutely yearn for it. How else can we ever hope to open ourselves to the possibility of joy without taking chances that could make us confused or unhappy instead? When there are opportunities for an excess of emotion, we should take them whenever we can no matter if things might not turn out the way we envision. The point is not the opening of ourselves to havoc, not the giving over to another person's whims, but giving over to ourselves, giving over to something that's true and basic inside us, something essential. I do not have a practical bone in my body and perhaps that makes it easier for me to see the advantages to the impracticality of feelings things deeply, maybe it's just because I am so horribly sensitive and I have to fight with myself not to feel things too much on a regular basis. I don't know. But I will tell you I wish I knew more people whose greatest desire was to let go of their careful selves and share these distasteful excesses of emotion with like-minded people. I do wish.

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