David Lean

David Lean has been noted by Steven Spielberg to be one of his greatest influences in filmmaking, and David Lean is classed as the 9th greatest director in the British film industry. One of the founding members of the BAFTAs (then known as the British Film Academy), and was made chairman in 1947.  With films as Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago under his belt, Lean is indeed a marveled Modernist director, and editor.

Lawrence of Arabia, was and still is today considered his masterpiece, with a greatly chosen cast (Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins and Omar Sharif) and carefully structured story, it told the biography of T. E Lawrence and his struggle to cease the civil war between the two Arabic countries. There is a scene in Lawrence of Arabia that is noted to being one of the best delivered scenes in cinema, with a slow 10 minute build up of the character, played by Sharif approaching. The scene deliberately concentrates upon the desert landscape.

The scene has been shortened to the converse of Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, whom of which were nominated Most Promising Newcomer – Male at 20th Golden Globe Awards in 1962. For this film, David Lean had received five awards alone, (Best Director at the 35th Academy Awards; Best Film for Source and Best British Film at the 16th British Academy of Film and Television Arts, shared with his producer Sam Spiegel; Best Motion Picture – Drama, at the 20th Golden Globe Awards, shared with Spiegel again, then a singular award Best Director of a Motion Picture).

What astounds me from Lean’s work is his love for scenery, he would openly go on location to places such as India and Russia, and his introductory credits, the lengthy scenes were deliberately capturing the movement of the characters’ environment. The countries’ landscape, most notably within battle scenes. Doctor Zhivago shows a great deal of this.

From 3:33 -3:38, there is a slow downed, panoramic shot of Russia’s snowy landscape, the figures in a silhouette like distance, like a painted Christmas card. From 4:15 – 4:20, Zhivago is left to stare upon a snowed horizon, which distinguished sleigh tracks to be a tormented reminder of his love’s departure.

However, to me, out of all of David Lean’s films, my favourite will just have to be Brief Encounter. I know, it’s extraordinary of someone my age to consider this old fashioned, black and white film something to be admired; but to be truthful it is. Not because of the lightning affects, and the photographic shots being ahead of their time, but because of the raw emotion between the two characters, played be Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Despite the fact it is set in post-World War II, everything needed to be prim and proper; women were considered a certain way, men were considered a certain way, it still relates to this day; how adultery is treated, how two people committing an affair do react.

The scene that works wonders on my emotions is, not, well it is the ending as well. The ending does frustrate me, because after everything the couple went through, they still had to depart, never to see each other again, and the woman had to return to her husband. But the scene that I admire the most is the scene at the bridge, where the two share a kiss. The scenery around the pair is subtle, quaint which contrasts with the likes of Lawrence of Arabia. Plus, how Lean managed to capture the vulnerability of the pair, the protectiveness and the possessive of Alec’s character.


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