Friday, October 16, 2009

Best British Films: 4. Distant Voices, Still Lives

Distant Voices, Still Lives is one film in two parts from Terence Davies. The first part is Distant Voices, in which three grown siblings and their mother mourn the loss of their father and husband, and remember him in varying lights in 1940s Liverpool. The second part is Still Lives, which takes place (and was filmed) two years later. The siblings are all settled, but not all of them are happy.

The film opens with "I Get the Blues When It Rains", the first of many songs used as insight into the characters' feelings. It's a rainy day and Eileen, Maisie, and Tony are attending their father's funeral with their mother. His picture hangs on the wall, smiling over them. But their memories of him are anything but pleasant. Most of their recollections show him to be a cruel and violent man.

Nevertheless, his death causes all of them pain, and recovering from his sudden absence proves just as difficult as recovering from his vicious presence.

Terence Davies subtly suggests the ways that family members prop each other up, cut each other down, and weather the storm of their upbringing, and in doing so, his film acquires a cumulative sense of hope and understanding. ***1/2/4


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