Terence Davies, a reputed British filmmaker acclaimed for two profound films echoing his childhood in Liverpool post World War II, passed away peacefully in his slumber at the age of 77. This regrettable revelation was confirmed by John Taylor, his manager, on Saturday, following a brief illness that took the creator’s breath away.
Davies’ journey began in a labor class Catholic household in the English harbor town, where he held humble jobs as a shipping clerk and an accounting firm’s bookkeeper. Eventually, Davies enrolled at a drama school in Coventry, and subsequently joined the National Film School, finding a more fitting path.
Davies created a slew of short films, and made his notable entry as a writer-director in 1988 with “Distant Voices, Still Lives”. This oneiric, almost phantasmagoric film masterfully encapsulated a childhood fraught with poverty and violence, yet lightened by the magic of music and cinema. This masterpiece bagged the prestigious Cannes International Critics Prize in the same year, and was also heralded as the ninth-best film of the preceding 25 years by British film critics in a 2002 survey.
Another resonant autobiographical film followed in 1992 – “The Long Day Closes”. Later, Davies returned to his roots with the 2008 documentary, “Of Time and the City”.
Renowned author and critic Michael Koresky, while penning an ode to Davies on the British Film Institute website, described the director’s autobiographical epic pieces as “melancholy, occasionally harrowing, and indescribably beautiful – two of the greatest works in the entire realm of the cinema.” He further added, “Arguably, he doesn’t even have imitators; no one would dare.”
Davies’ distinctive filmic lyricism carved a niche for itself, earning larger budgets and catapulting his creations into the mainstream. Most of his later work was set in the 19th or early 20th centuries, echoing his characteristic style and sensitivity.
Some of his well-received works include the 1995 film “The Neon Bible”, situated in the deep south of the United States, the award-winning “The House of Mirth”, a rendition of Edith Wharton’s classic starring Gillian Anderson, and the 2011 film “The Deep Blue Sea” based on a Terence Rattigan play.
Davies also lent his touch to “Sunset Song”, a tribute to rural Scotland starring model and actress Agyness Deyn, and brought to life poet Emily Dickinson’s story in “A Quiet Passion” with Cynthia Nixon in the lead.
“Benediction”, his swansong, explores the life of World War I soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon, featuring Jack Lowden, Peter Capaldi, and the late Julian Sands. Davies’ legacy lives on through his emblematic work, echoing his poetic sensitivity, a reflective visual cadence, and undeniable charm.