Distant Voices, Still Lives Screen 7 articles

Distant Voices, Still Lives

1988

Distant Voices, Still Lives Poster
  • A series of emotional and visceral jolts whose brute power and intensity could not be conveyed by a conventional linear story. A seamless block of passionate memories defined by the beauty and terror of the everyday. The problem with all these descriptions is that though each is partially accurate, they only dance around the periphery of what is a primal experience; that they represent the shards of my attempts to describe the essence of a masterpiece that reinvents filmgoing itself.

  • The title may imply the stagnation of oppressed lives, yet the picture's lasting impression is one of concentrated, purified motion, of images poetically triggering images, and, above all, of waves of feeling flowing from screen to audience and back. Never ignoring the characters' pain as the family dissolves in the course of the film, Davies brings to their gatherings a heartfelt sense of emotional community struggling with the inescapable passage of time.

  • Terence Davies' first feature is one of the most original and accomplished debuts of the 1980s, and a masterpiece of personal filmmaking... By inventing a style that reflects his own memories, Davies touches upon a universal theme: our relationship to the past.

  • The film evokes intimate memories with its carefully selected music cues and precise formalism, but what it has to say about its tyrannical patriarch, both the product of an equally hellacious upbringing and the producer of a subsequent generation of abusive, insecure men, is tragically universal.

  • With an unfailing eye for place, décor, costume, and gesture, the director glides his camera through tangles of memories to evoke joys and horrors with a similar sense of wonder. In effect, the movie is an autobiographical musical, with the singing of pop tunes and traditional songs in homes and bars taking the place of ineffable intimacies.

  • A stunner of a first feature, this episodic chronicle of working-class life in postwar Liverpool was a personal and public exorcism for Davies, marked by his enduring compassion... With devotional simplicity and heartbreaking tenderness, its virtuoso set pieces of family ceremony and quotidian ritual lay bare a generation’s worth of compromises and betrayals. A masterpiece of the most exalted plane.

  • Davies, not a character in this film, was only six-years-old when his father died, yet his presence as a spectator is felt in the film’s formal elements. We are always aware of the camera’s presence here. In Distant Voices we see this to powerful effect in the glorious tableau composition of the family posed as if for a photo on Eileen’s wedding day. Slowness and stillness make us aware of the father’s physical absence and his detached presence in a photo on the wall behind them.

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