Magazine article The Nation

Distant Voices, Still Lives

Magazine article The Nation

Distant Voices, Still Lives

Article excerpt

Terence Davies's Distant Voices, Still Lives also focuses its attention on a killer of sorts, in this case a workingclass man who brutalizes his wife and children as if to prove to them that the world is just as blighted as it' looks and they shouldn't expect anything better. It is as painful a film as you're likely to see; but, if youR forgive the religious-sounding word, it's also Uluminating. Though it's been months since I saw the picture - it played last fall in the New York Film Festival - entire sequences remain lit up in my mind, in fun color, almost as if they were memories of my own life.

Though the film is a narrative, it moves freely in time. Davies has cut out all the explanations and connective passages; only the epiphanies are left, to be relived at their own pace, in the order that makes each one stand out most clear ly. Many of them are harrowing. The son, who's become a soldier, stands before his father after a row and holds out a bottle in his bleeding hand, offering to settle the fight with a drink; the mother urges him to drink with his son, but the father merely stares. There's also a stunning scene in which the family and neighbors are gathered in an air-raid shelter during the blitz; in the silence, the father orders his young daughter to sing, and she duti- fully steps forward to pipe out a thin, solemn chorus of The Beer Barrel Polka.'

But even at such a moment, Distant Voices, Still Lives is about emotional resilience and shared feelings as much as it is about pain and darkness. …

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