Terence Davies

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For other people of a similar name, see Terry Davis (disambiguation).
Terence Davies
Born (1945-11-10) 10 November 1945 (age 70)
Kensington, Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Occupation Writer, filmmaker
Website http://www.terencedavies.com/

Terence Davies (born 10 November 1945)[1] is an English screenwriter, film director, sometime novelist and actor. As a filmmaker, Davies is noted for his recurring themes of emotional (and sometimes physical) endurance, the influence of memory on everyday life and the potentially crippling effects of dogmatic religiosity on the emotional life of individuals and societies. Stylistically, Davies' works are notable for their symmetrical compositions, "symphonic" structure and measured pace. He is also the sole screenwriter of all his films.

Early years[edit]

Davies was born in Kensington, Liverpool, Lancashire, to working class Catholic parents, the youngest child in a family of ten children.[2] Though raised Catholic by his deeply religious mother, he later rejected religion and considers himself an atheist.[3]


After leaving school at sixteen, he worked for ten years as a shipping office clerk and as an unqualified accountant, before leaving Liverpool to attend Coventry Drama School. While there, he wrote the screenplay for what became his first autobiographical short, Children (1976), filmed under the auspices of the BFI Production Board. After this introduction to film-making, Davies went to the National Film School, completing Madonna and Child (1980), a continuation of the story of Davies' alter ego, Robert Tucker, covering his years as a clerk in Liverpool. Three years later, he completed the trilogy with Death and Transfiguration (1983), in which he hypothesizes the circumstances of his death. These works went on to be screened together at film festivals throughout Europe and the US as The Terence Davies Trilogy, winning numerous awards. Davies, who is gay,[4] frequently explores gay themes in his films.[5]

Due to funding difficulties and his refusal to compromise, Davies' output has been comparatively sporadic, with only five feature films released to date. Despite his modest output, Davies' reputation among critics and film scholars has grown steadily, and he is widely considered "Britain's greatest living filmmaker."

Davies' first two features, Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes, are very autobiographical films set in 1940s and '50s Liverpool, and they are his most celebrated works. In reviewing Distant Voices, Still Lives when it was first released, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote that "years from now when practically all the other new movies currently playing are long forgotten, it will be remembered and treasured as one of the greatest of all English films."[6] When the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound Magazine polled film critics in 2002 on the best films of the previous 25 years, Distant Voices, Still Lives placed in the top ten at No. 9.[7] Jean-Luc Godard, often dismissive of British cinema in general, singled out Distant Voices, Still Lives as a major exception, calling it "magnificent." The Long Day Closes is also considered a masterpiece, with J. Hoberman calling it "Davies' most autobiographical and fully achieved work."[8]

Davies' next two features, The Neon Bible and The House of Mirth, were adaptations of novels by John Kennedy Toole and Edith Wharton, respectively. The House of Mirth in particular was widely acclaimed, with Film Comment naming it one of the 10 best films of 2000. Gillian Anderson would also win Best Performance in the Second Annual Village Voice Film Critics' Poll, and the film was named the third best film of 2000 in the same poll.[9]

Soon after completing The House of Mirth, Davies intended fifth feature was Sunset Song, an adaptation of the novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Financing proved difficult as Scottish and international backers left the project after the BBC, Channel 4, and the UK Film Council each rejected proposals for final funds. Davies apparently considered Kirsten Dunst for the lead role before the project was postponed.

In the interim, Davies produced two works for radio, A Walk to the Paradise Garden, an original radio play broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 2001, and a two-part radio adaptation of Virginia Woolf's The Waves, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in September 2007.

The long interval between films ended with his first documentary Of Time and the City, which was premiered out of competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. The work uses vintage newsreel footage, contemporary popular music and a narration by Davies himself as a bittersweet paean to his hometown of Liverpool. It received rave reviews on its premiere.[10]

The Deep Blue Sea, based on the play by Terence Rattigan, which was commissioned by the Rattigan Trust. The film was also met with widespread acclaim,[11] with Rachel Weisz winning the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress and topping the Village Voice Film Critics' Poll for best lead female performance as well.

Davies was set to direct Uncle Vanya at Wyndham's Theatre in 2013.[12]

Davies eventually found finance for Sunset Song in 2012,[13] and went into production in 2014.[14] In October 2014 the film went into post-production.[15] It was released in 2015.[16]


Awards and nominations[edit]



  1. ^ Debrett's People of Today – Terence Davies Esq.
  2. ^ Ellis, Jim (11 November 2004). "Davies, Terence". glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. Retrieved 7 August 2007.  line feed character in |publisher= at position 50 (help)
  3. ^ Intensive Care, the autobiographical radio feature that Davies wrote and narrated for BBC Radio 3 (broadcast 17 April 2010)
  4. ^ Hattenstone, Simon (20 October 2006). "Bigmouth strikes again". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 August 2007. 
  5. ^ Ellis, Jim (11 November 2004). "Davies, Terence". glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. Retrieved 7 August 2007.  line feed character in |publisher= at position 50 (help)
  6. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (18 August 1989). "Distant Voices, Still Lives". Chicago: Chicago Reader. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  7. ^ James, Nick (2002). "Modern Times". London: BFI's Sight & Sound. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  8. ^ Hoberman, Jim (23 March 2012). "The Inner Light of Terence Davies". New York: NYRblog. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "Village Voice Critics Poll". New York: The Village Voice. 2000. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Ide, Wendy (20 May 2008). "Of Time and the City". London: Times.co.uk. Retrieved 20 May 2008. 
  11. ^ Scott, A.O. (22 March 2012). "The Deep Blue Sea". New York: NYTimes. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  12. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (23 November 2011). "Terence Davies: follow your hormones". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 15 December 2011. 
  13. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/feb/17/terence-davies-sunset-song
  14. ^ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/terence-davies-sunset-song-begins-699546
  15. ^ http://www.hurricanefilms.net/2014/10/02/sunset-song-post-production/
  16. ^ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/terence-davies-sunset-song-begins-699546

External links[edit]