Re: Do Classics Become Less Great When They Become Dated?

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.past-films
Date: Tuesday, February 10, 1998 8:56 AM

Catty@demon (in the U.K.) wrote in message
>… However, there are many classic films
>that aren't liked or understood by many people today. Just the other
>day, I screened 'Brief Encounter' to my friend's daughter and her
>friends. One of them finally snapped, "Why didn't they just shag and
>get it over and done with it? Why all that agony when they could have
>gone to the loo and have a shag? I mean, what's the big deal? Why
>didn't Laura get a divorce?"

According to William K. Everson in his book "Love in the Film" (Citadel Press, 1979), even when "Brief Encounter" was new, it was seen by some cultures as making too big a deal out of something that needn't have been: "even at the time [1945], the French weren't impressed. They couldn't understand what all the soul-searching was about, and felt that if the doctor wanted to sleep with his lady friend, why didn't he? Today's young British audiences, when they bother to see it at all, find its restraints hilarious."

Anyway, Catty, your observation about films no longer being understood by peoples who are unlike their country's predecessors, is on target.

Your mentioning the hubbub about Laura not merely getting a divorce, brings up that the acceptance of divorce has gone through permutations, and that this has been reflected in films. When "The Browning Version" was made in 1951, the unfaithful wife's decision to divorce her husband comes as a shock to him, and is presented as the unconventional, radical solution to a faulty marriage. When the Terence Rattigan play was made again with Albert Fenney a few years ago (for 1994 release), the wife once again makes a radical decision about her marriage, one intended to be a shock to the audience: this time, she chooses to stay married, although it is conveyed that she is still not enamored of her husband.

David Hayes (writing from a somewhat different culture: California)


Return to Table of Contents

Go to next article