A guide to na­tional film­mak­ing trea­sure Ter­ence Davies

Empire (UK) - - RE.VIEW - words IAN FREER

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).

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