Tag: Terence Davies

Movie Review: The Deep Blue Sea

“Lust isn’t the whole of life, but Freddie is, you see, for me. The whole of life. And death. So, put a label on that, if you can.”

This is not the movie about super smart sharks that eat Sam Jackson. I’ve seen that movie probably like 10 times. This film, different in that it has a “The” in the title, is a drama about a romantic triangle that has very little romance in it. Mostly, it’s a movie about regret and mistakes and expectations. It’s not the stuff of blockbusters or mutant animal films, but it is the stuff of a top 10 movie of the year. Terence Davies wraps this sad story in a warm blanket of long scenes and long takes and longing stares out of windows. It’s a story of emotional connections that don’t connect and as such is not exactly a happy occasion. But with the lighting and soft focus Davies turns what could be a cold film into a wonderfully affecting movie.

I’ve only seen one other Terence Davies¬†movie, The Long Day Closes, which I reviewed on this site. That film is a coming-of-age movie and it, too, is a sad tale told warmly. In fact, the two movies could be happening concurrently. In The Deep Blue Sea, Hester (Rachel Weisz) leaves her older husband (Simon Russell Beale) for a WWII pilot, Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) in 1950 London. All three are fantastic in the film and I’m sure Weisz and Hiddleston will get a lot of recognition as we roll into awards season. Weisz is one of our more lively actresses and to see her play depressed and repressed is a tragedy in its own right. We know that she can be so vivacious but here we only get a suicidal and ultimately lonesome woman. Hiddleston doffs his Loki helmet and puts on the charming suit of a former RAF pilot who inspires love in Hester but can’t seem to return the favor. It’s that difference between her love for him and his less effusive response that creates the drama of the film.

The movie consists of a few scenes in the love affair between Hester and Freddie temporally jumbled. Mostly, I think, this is due to the out-of-order scenes being memories Hester conjures to make herself even more miserable. Two scenes stand out in the memory department. One has the young couple taking in an afternoon at the museum. Hester tries to get caught up in the artwork but Freddie can’t quite connect and gives up, declaring that he’s off to see the Impressionists since the cubists aren’t doing anything for him. It’s a scene of two ships passing in the night. Maybe they can tell that the wake is there, but they’ll never see each other. The other memory comes as Hester rushes down to the tube station where she and her husband hid during the war. Her memory is a long tracking shot showing how people built and kept alive a hope of normalcy even while living underground. Each family has a little space set up and curtains to separate them. But they come together in song as Davies is fond to do. They recreate their community in dire circumstances and at the end of the shot is Hester and her husband, embracing and, it seems, loving each other. After the memory ends she slowly ascends back to street level, crying at what she’s lost and for what.

This is a winter movie with lots of talk about catching a chill and the use of a gas fireplace for various purposes. But most importantly, it makes the last image devastating. Early on we see an impressionistic series of shots with Hester and Freddie intwined with each other in bed. The camera focuses, at one point, on their hands and how Hester grasps and re-grasps Freddies hand. At the end of the film all she has left of him is his golfing gloves which she handles in much the same way as she did with the real hand earlier in the film. It’s heartbreaking that the man she loved never loved her back and was practically just a shell which never reciprocated any feelings. The gloves, like Freddie himself, were only the form of a thing and not the thing itself. Freddie acted like a lover but never loved.

Movie Review: The Long Day Closes

The Long Day Closes is a strange film. It is a movie about a boy who watches. He doesn’t see or look, he watches. This boy, called Bud in the film but I don’t know if that’s a nickname or his given name, loves going to the movies to escape his mid 1950’s life in Liverpool, England. When he goes he can just watch and get a story. Everything makes sense there and nobody does anything off script. That’s not to say that Bud’s life is filled with trauma. He gets bullied at school a little, and he can’t hang out with his older brothers and sisters as much as he’d like to. In fact, when he’s not at a movie he treats his window like a screen unto the world. He sits and watches as people go about their days and it rains and new buildings get erected and old buildings crumble. He sees everybody and constructs them into a film of his own, including a score for every scene and even some borrowed dialogue from movies like Meet Me in St. Louis. Early on he daydreams about a ship sailing by instead of paying attention in class. It’s a majestic moment, but it’s not typical of the film. You won’t find many flights of fancy here. What you will find is a beautiful and engrossing film about growing up and out of things.

There’s a lot for a guy like me to empathize with in Bud. I, too, like to watch. I like to construct people into characters playing out their roles for my enjoyment. I like to watch people do whatever it is that they are doing and make up the “why” for their “what.” For the most part, A Long Day Closes invites us to imagine what Bud is imagining. It doesn’t show us his creations, his scenes. We see him watching and we watch along with him but he never voices his thoughts. The film moves at a slow pace and lasts for only 85 minutes, but that’s enough time for us to know Bud and know what it’s like to be him. He struggles with his religion and sexuality and his watching and creating is enough to convey this. We see him pose his family as the Last Supper at Christmastime. We see him praying and then imagining the nails being driven into Jesus’s hands. It’s the epitome of show, don’t tell.

And how glorious the showing is. The film is full of long shots that move slowly but deliberately towards a subject. Seasons change in a minutes-long shot of carpet as the light shines and then fades, shines and fades again. It opens with a long shot of a street and pouring rain. The shot lasts for a whole song (Nat King Cole singing “Stardust”) and the camera moves down the street, seemingly war-torn, and up into Bud’s house. It feels like it’s raining in there too. Later in the film we hear a part of a lecture about erosion and the many forms it can take. It closes with a dream-like vision of death (or something). As the erosion lecture continues Bud enters the basement of his house and it looks like a bomb has exploded there. The debris is strewn and more falls in from the top of the shot. Bud looks around and then enters a dark doorway. If this film is autobiographical (it is both written and directed by Terence Davies) we can assume that he didn’t literally die, but maybe his childhood is dead. The movies teach us to be optimistic. Usually things work out in the end (and the end is only two hours away, if that). Maybe the ending is Bud realizing that movies aren’t showing us the world as it is, the world as he wants – wills – it to be. The movies present a kind of faux reality, the same faux reality that school and religion present us. The parallel between these three institutions is beautifully expressed in a series of overhead dolly shots that fade between the theater and school room and church pews, everywhere that pretend to give the answers about how everything works. It’s after this series of shots that Bud enters his destroyed basement and then the doorway to nothing. He has been torn down, entering somewhere he can’t even see into. It’s the scariest thing somebody who watches everything can do.