15 Feb: Looking at the work of Terence Davies


I had previously watched Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) some time ago, but re-watched it again, with the influence of what I have been researching recently in mind.  It is in many ways a brutal film in its subject matter, recounting a period in time very different in some respects to family life today.  Beryl Bainbridge, in her article in The Guardian 21 April 2007, states that Davies said that the film was about “memory and the mosaic of memory”.  She advises that a coral filter was used except for the red lipstick (particularly evident in the second part of the film) and it was further beached to intensify the stark reality of the past.  She adds that there are “… no interruptions in the plot or frequent shock effects but slow and penetrating recording of a past … no nostalgia, no sentimentality, no crying out for pity, just images.”

bfi%20distant%20voices%20still%20lives%20PDVD_007The techniques he has used are such things as using sound only with no human presence, such as empty stairs but with the feet and voices of the people going downstairs, slow panning of some scenes, the contrasts between sadness and happy times; and the importance of the font door linking events throughout the film.  He often starts new sound clips as a lead in to the next scene which keeps the flow of the events together.  I found the film very moving and it is visually sensitive and artistic, in both composition and the content matter depicted.

Distant_Voices_Still_Lives_1_Terence_DaviesHis following film, The Long Day Closes (1992) is a young boy’s exploration and cultivation of his interest in the cinema and is viewed as largely semi-autobiographical.  The following is a YouTube clip about aspects of the film.

Terence Davies

This still image is taken from the film.   The boy Bud is central to the film, and is depicted as a sad and lonely 11 year old who haunts the local cinema; which he uses as his main source of solace.  Like his previous film Davies uses subtle variations of light and tone and slow paying shots interspersed throughout the film.

I was intersted to watch his later film The House of Mirth (2007) to see how his work had developed in the interim period.  This is a tragic love story set in the turn of the century New York. Whilst it follows more of the ‘Hollywood’ format of a large production aimed to go on general release, there are still instances of his earlier treatments of some scenes, such as concentrating  on slow shots.

The following still image was taken from the film and it almost resembles a fine art painting such were produced by the painters of the Pre-Raphaelites.


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