Review – Distant Voices, Still Lives

Distant Voices, Still Lives

Terence Davies

1988

The tale of a working class English family, getting by in the 1940s and 50s, before and after the death of their puritanical father.

The plot of this film is as simple as the sentence I have just given it. But it seems like a disservice to describe it in such simple words. Through nothing more than a static shot, a song or a scream this film shows the whole human emotion. Distant Voices, Still Lives is divided into two separate films, shot 2 years apart. The first film is a study of domestic abuse and familial struggle with a father who is psychopathic. His violence permeates the whole family’s life. The second film, Still Lives, is a great deal more upbeat, focusing on the years after the father’s death. Through both films we hear various traditional pre-war songs sung in pubs. The magic of the film comes from the images, the music and the emotion of the direction. Every shot is lovingly framed like Davies knows the settings like the back of his hand.

There are very, very few directors (if any) like Terence Davies working today anywhere in the world. His films deal with the human heart more honestly than almost any other and the fact that most of the time he finds it near impossible to make a film inside the British film industry and doesn’t have money showered upon him by the government, by British film producers, by anyone is farcical.

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