A guide to national filmmaking treasure Terence Davies
A QUIET PASSION, a slow, spare powerful portrait of US poet Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon), is only Terence Davies’ eighth film in 30 years. But unlike that other profound, poetic Tel — Malick — Davies’ productivity has been thwarted less by artistic noodling than his disconnect from the film establishment. Here’s our quick bluffer’s guide to one of Britain’s greatest. HIS THEMES Davies’ tough upbringing in 1950s Liverpool included a brutal father, bullying and a troubled relationship with Catholicism, all literally dramatised in The Terence Davies
Trilogy (1983), Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) and The Long Day Closes (1992). Tonally his films are full of feeling but never sentimental. “If you look at a trailer for the latest dramas, everybody cries,” he says. “It doesn’t mean anything because it is cheap. It’s easy to make someone cry. It’s much more difficult to move them.” HIS STYLE Davies’ default cinematic position is symmetry. “It’s instinctive.,” he says. “I went to church a lot and you are head on to the altar and everything happens in that symmetrical way. It is very satisfying. It’s like cocoa.” He tried to “break the habit” with A Quiet Passion — it even features touches of CGI. HIS INFLUENCES Cinematic touchstones include MGM musicals, Douglas Sirk and Ingmar Bergman. But bigger influences include the women in his family. “I was brought up by mother and my sisters. I loved my brothers but I feel much more comfortable around women.” As such, his films are often built around complex female protagonists — see Nixon’s stunning turn in A Quiet Passion. HIS ATTITUDE Davies doesn’t stay in touch with pop culture — he had never heard of Rachel Weisz when he cast her in The Deep Blue Sea. He also believes the modern world is rubbish. “What has happened now — and it’s really unpleasant — is the sheer narcissism of contemporary life. Everybody thinks they are the centre of the universe. Why would you want to take a photograph of yourself having dinner?” HIS FUTURE A portrait of World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon. “The big problem with him is that you can mention anyone in the 20th century and he met them. It would just become name-dropping and that would be really embarrassing. That has got to go.” A QUIET PASSION IS OUT ON 17 JULY ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD
Terence Davies on the set of A Quiet
Passion with Cynthia Nixon. Below right: Emily (Nixon) with sister Vinnie (Jennifer Ehle).