Film director Terence Davies in conversation at Anglia Ruskin

Published: 10 May 2007 at 15:19

As part of Anglia Ruskin University’s sponsorship of the Cambridge Film Festival 2007, one of the UK’s greatest film directors, Terence Davies will be ‘in conversation’ with a mixed audience of university students and film enthusiasts on 31 May at the Mumford Theatre (7.30pm).

While Terence Davies is still relatively unknown to today’s audiences, his work film Distant Voices, Still Lives (released in the UK in 1988) is heralded by the critics as a masterpiece.  The film was awarded the International Critics Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988 and was instantly recognised as a truly original achievement.  It was said to be unlike anything else in British cinema and its director was hailed as one of Britain’s most remarkable film-makers.

He said:

“I am thrilled to have been invited by the Cambridge Film Festival and Anglia Ruskin University to discuss and show my work, together with a selection of my favourite films - The Ladykillers, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Bandwagon and Meet Me in St Louis - which to me are pure cinema and pure joy”.

This highly acclaimed film from Terence Davies has just been re-released by the British Film Institute (BFI) as a National Archive Restoration is described as a ‘poetic study of 40s and 50s working-class life’.

Set in a world before Elvis, a Liverpool before the Beatles, Distant Voices, Still Lives paints an intensely vivid autobiographical picture of Catholic working-class family life in the 1940s and 50s. A mother, two sisters (Eileen and Maisie) and brother (Tony) are oppressed by a father who is prone to terrifying outbursts of violence. Divided into two parts, it is a film, according to Davies himself, ‘about memory and the mosaic of memory’, a fluid series of vignettes which conjure up the emotional highs and lows of everyday life as well as the landmark rituals of birth, marriage and death.

It is a world saturated with popular culture – Hollywood musicals, radio comedy shows, racing commentaries and football results. Above all, there is the popular music of the period which is a powerful trigger of memory both for the characters and for viewers of the film. Indeed music - ranging from Ella Fitzgerald’s Taking A Chance On Love to Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin - takes up more than half the film’s screen time, with a song never far from anyone’s lips.

Today, almost twenty years after its first release, Terence Davies’ Distant Voices, Still Lives has acquired the status of a British classic.

The BFI’s release of this new restoration – seen to best effect on the big screen – will enable a whole new audience to experience its visual beauty, life-affirming humour and extraordinary emotional power.

Up to and including The Long Day Closes, Davies’ films are inspired by his own experiences and those of his family, however, his authorial signature depends on much more than a documenting of personal history.

Professor Monika Pruetzel-Thomas, Dean of Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences (ALSS) said:

“We are absolutely thrilled to be hosting this very special evening with Terence Davies, as part of the Cambridge Film Festival.  The audience will be able to engage in direct dialogue with one of the most gifted film makers of our time. We are delighted to have such a major British film icon here at our Mumford Theatre.”

The evening will be illustrated with several film extracts. Tickets are available from the Mumford Theatre and Arts Picturehouse.

They cost £5 for members of the general public.  Concessions are available for students and members of the Arts Picturehouse.