Inspired By: Brief Encounter (1945)


It's time for the next in our Inspired By: series. Today's post will feature an artwork inspired by the classic 1945 David Lean film, Brief Encounter. It tells the tale of a pair of married middle aged strangers who meet by happenstance at a railway station. An innocent encounter over a cup of tea in the stations refreshment room leads the two into a whirlwind romance that neither was looking for, but was powerless to resist. Arranging to meet again the following week, they both parted to go back to their mundane suburban lives with their spouses and children.

Carnforth Lancashire Railway Station clock ramp transport platform brief encounter filmAs their weekly meetings continue they both grow increasingly more in love, quite unaware of the consequences of what such a relationship would have on their families. It isn't until a chance meeting with one of Laura’s (Celia Johnson) friends that make them both aware of the reality of their situation.

With the fear that they might be caught together again, Alec (Trevor Howard) arranges for them to spend the afternoon at a friends flat. When Alec’s friend Stephen returns home early, Laura, ashamed, leaves via the back stairs onto the street. After walking for hours in the rain, Laura eventually finds a seat on a bench in a local park. With the weight of her situation weighing heavily on her shoulders a policeman walks towards her, and by his manner gives her the impression that he considers her to be a prostitute.

Carnforth Lancashire Railway Station clock ramp transport platform brief encounter filmThe full reality of what their initial innocent arrangement had now turned into was now apparent to them. Realizing the danger and what it could do to their families, they both come to the decision to part.

With Alec being given the opportunity of a job in Johannesburg, they both arrange to meet one final time at the Railway Station to say goodbye. Their last moments together were interrupted by Laura’s friend Dolly who talks incessantly, and is unaware of what was really going on.  Robbed of their chance to say goodbye, Alec’s train arrives and all Alec could do to say goodbye was to squeeze Laura discreetly on the shoulder before leaving the refreshment room. After a few moments, Laura overcome with emotion, dashes out to the platform to try and see Alec for one last time. As she does the express train thunders past, not giving into a fleeting suicidal impulse she gathers herself together before going back into her dull suburban life surrounded by her husband and children.

Carnforth Lancashire Railway Station clock ramp transport platform brief encounter filmDirected by David Lean, the film was an adaptation of Noël Coward’s 1936 one-act play Still Life, with the screenplay written by Noël Coward himself. Featuring a stellar cast and a soundtrack in which Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff is its main musical theme. It is a film which, at its heart, is a story of forbidden love and the delicacy of the human spirit. Although it was made at the end of World War Two, Brief Encounter still enraptures everyone who watch it. Male and male, young and old, it still maintains a timeless and universal appeal.

Recently when I was visiting Lancaster, I had the privilege of visiting Carnforth Railway Station which was the location of Railway Station featured in the 1945 film. Walking up the ramp where Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard ran up on several occasions on to the platform, and to see the magnificent station clock under which the two met, I was thrilled. I love films, especially black and white classics, and to be standing in the location of one of my all time favourite films was a bit of a dream come true. With my camera in hand, I took photographs of everything I saw.

Today’s Inspired By: will feature an image I took that day. Let’s take a look.

Carnforth Railway Station Lancashire clock movie film Brief Encounter David Lean Noel Coward Celia Johnson trevor howard love storyTo those of you who are familiar with the film this image will appeal to you as much as it does to me. The moment I took this shot I thought that this would make a great project. This is what I want to achieve:

  1. Enhance the image in order to evoke the spirit of the film.
  2. To shift the focus of the image to be on the ramp and the clock.

Whether I am a hopeless romantic at heart or it’s the effect Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 thats playing on my mp3 player, I started to think about what life would have been like for Alec and Laura in the years after they last met. Would they have lived out the rest of their lives without a thought about their Brief Encounter?

This is what I imagined.

Its 1979, after many years working as a doctor in Johannesburg, Alec is now 71 years old. It has been 5 months since he lost his devoted wife. Now a widower, he is faced with the prospect of living the rest of his life without her. Surrounded by his children, who are all grown up with families of his own and live close by, he is now alone with only his memories to look back on. Whilst sitting at the desk in his study, he unlocks the drawer to the left of him. Opening the drawer towards him, nestled amongst other papers there is a photograph that has been with him nearly all his adult life. Holding it tenderly he looks deeply into it trying desperately to envision the person who he had leave there. With waves of memories flooding back about Laura and the time they shared, he quickly puts the photograph back into the drawer and locks it. For a moment he started to wonder if Laura still thought of him. What if things had been different? Rising from his chair he walks through to the sideboard in the lounge and pours himself a brandy in order to pull himself together. The choice they both made back then was made, and neither time nor thoughts can change it. To bring up the past was of no help or comfort to him. The memories of what happened all those years ago had to stay locked away,like the photograph in his desk. Not just for his family’s sake, but for his.

I have created that photograph.

Carnforth Railway Station Lancashire clock movie film Brief Encounter David Lean Noel Coward Celia Johnson trevor howard love storyWould you like to hear about how I achieved it?

Although Colour photography was in existence in the 1940's, it wasn't affordable to most people. so by desaturating the image it gives it a more authentic feel. By doing so also refers back to the film itself, which was filmed in black and white.

I wanted to give the image the appearance of being an aged photograph that has not been stored properly, and that has deteriorated with time. Drawing inspiration from some old damaged family photos I distressed the image. Using brushes of different shapes and set at various opacities, I  aged the photo. Blurring areas, discolouring other areas etc.

To distress I even more I  damaged it digitally. Again with various brushes set at different opacities applied what looks like scores, cracks, water damage etc.

Looking at old images they do not have nice clean straight edges, this image should not have then either. With a white brush set at full opacity I worked on the edges of the photograph, making them uneven and worn.

The cameras of the 1940's did not have the technology we have now. The term mega-pixel was alien to the photographer of the day. In order to imitate the technology of yesteryear I needed to reduce the clarity of the image. To achieve this I added noise to the image then applied a Gaussian blur.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about Brief Encounter and what I have done with this image. For more information about the film please visit:

I hope you have enjoyed reading today's post, and if you have images that you would like given the same treatment then please send an email with your image to You can also visit our website at for more information.

To see all the images I took at Carnforth Railway station then you can do so by clicking here to visit our new Flickr Page.

Thanks for reading!

Hugh at ReClick Photo.

P.S. You can catch up with our first Inspired By: post about Alphonse Mucha by clicking here!