Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.  

/, 1988.  , .  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by , .  Produced by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by William Diver.

Terence Davies follows three celebrated shorts that touched on his memories of youth and continues the theme with his dazzling debut feature film set in post-war England.  At its core, it is about the daily life of a working-class Liverpool family, in the first half dealing with their feelings of their recently deceased, abusive father (), while in the second half they experience the joys and disappointments that remain in his absence.  Davies proves to have an incredible talent for displaying deep narrative development in a few short moments, treating his characters with complexity while using theatrical and self-conscious camera techniques that don’t relegate them to mere symbols: Postlethwaite’s physical abuse of wife is presented with as much honest candour as his tearfully putting Christmas presents on his children’s bed, and the camera never flinches from the sight of either the bruises on her body or her nostalgia for the man after he is gone.  Through it all, as would become a habit of this marvelous filmmaker, there is a lot of singing, with brightly dressed up lads and ladies sitting around pints at the pub regaling each other with popular tunes, the soundtrack providing characteristic commentary on their actions when they are not providing it themselves.  It’s marvelous how sincere the whole thing is, Davies is never afraid of showing the pain of these memories as well as the affection (a beautiful highlight being the way his sisters react to seeing Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing in a smoky movie house), and in exploring his childhood after his father’s death in his masterful follow up, The Long Day Closes, he would move more towards the positive without simplifying anything.

European Film Award Nominations:  Best European Film; Best European Supporting Actress (Freda Dowie); Best European Director (Terence Davies); Best European Screenwriter; Special Aspect

Toronto International Film Festival:  1988

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