Terence Davies – Past and Passion

Distant Voices, Still Lives

Terence Davies

UK 1988. 85 Min.
Color. DCP. E/df

It is said that evil people have no songs. This is a statement one might start questioning when faced with the kind of people who incessantly break into song in this film. That is, when they are not bad-mouthing each other, firing off abuse or even becoming physical – usually the men beating their wives or their children.
In his autobiographically inspired feature debut Distant Voices, Still Lives, Davies portrays a certain social class at a certain place at a certain time: in vignettes arranged as tableaux, he tells of the life of a working class family in 1940s and early 50s Liverpool. And he does so with a stylised, yes almost abstract gesture, which allows the universally human to emanate from the sociologically specific. It is as if the songs express dreams and longings, warm-hearted feelings and friendliness, while language is reserved for confrontation and thus for the harsher sides of reality. Understanding and sympathy are more likely to be found in songs, while a mute gaze describes the pains of everyday life. (as)


DirectorTerence Davies
ScreenplayTerence Davies
CinematographyWilliam Driver, Patrick Duval
EditingWilliam Driver
WithFred Dowie, Pete Postlethwaite, Dean Willliams, Angela Walsh
ProducersJennifer Howarth, Colin MacCabe

Terence Davies