David lean

Through his experience in the film industry, including his time as an assistant editor and as an editor, David Lean developed considerable technical skill. By the time he became codirector of In Which We Serve (1942) with Noel Coward, he was ready to launch into directing. As a director, he developed a visual strength and a literary sensibility that makes his work more complex than the work of Robert Wise. Lean's work is both more subtle and more ambitious. His experience as an editor is demonstrable in his directing work. Although Lean made only 15 films in a career of more than 40 years, many of those films have become important in the popular history of cinema. His pictorial epics, Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), remain the standard for this type of filmmaking. His romantic films, Brief Encounter (1945) and Summertime (1955), are the standard for that type of filmmaking. His literary adaptations, Great Expectations (1946) and Hobson's Choice (1954), are classics, and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) remains an example of an intelligent, entertaining war film with a message. Lean may have made few films, but his influence has far exceeded those numbers. The role of editing in his films may help explain that influence.

To establish context for his influence, it is critical to acknowledge Lean's penchant for collaborators: Noel Coward worked on his first three films, Anthony Havelock Allan and Ronald Neame collaborated on the films that followed, and Robert Bolt and Freddie Young worked on Lawrence of Arabia and the films that followed (except Passage to India, 1984). Also notable are Lean's visual strengths. Few directors have created more extraordinary visualizations in their films. The result is that individual shots are powerful and memorable. The shots don't contradict Pudovkin's ideas about the interdependency of shots for meaning, but they do soften the reliance on pace to shape the editorial meaning of the shots. Lean seems to have been able to create considerable impact without relying on metric montage. That is not to say that there is no rhythm to his scenes. When he wished to use pace, he did so carefully (as he did in the British captain's war memories in Ryan's Daughter [1970]). However, Lean seems to have been sufficiently self-assured as a director that his films rely less on pace than is the case with many other directors.

To consider his work in some detail, we will examine Brief Encounter, Great Expectations, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago.

Film Making

Film Making

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