The Men and Women of Terence Davies’s Cinema Worlds

On Film / Short Takes — Jun 27, 2016

Terence Davies is having quite a year. Back in February, the revered British filmmaker premiered his new Emily Dickinson biopic, A Quiet Passion, at the Berlin Film Festival, and in May, his 2015 film Sunset Song—a portrait of an early twentieth-century Scottish woman named Chris—came to the U.S. (While in New York for Sunset Song, Davies graciously stopped by to regale us with tales of his past.) As that film continues its run across the country, Davies spoke with novelist Steve Erickson about the film, how he creates the textures of a period piece, and his nostalgia for his childhood for an interview just published at the Los Angeles Review of Books. Erickson also inquires about the role of women in the director’s work. “What attracts you to female characters, particularly women who are victimized by men?” he asks. Davies responds:

It’s not so much that they’re victims. It’s the story that I love. It’s one of the elements, but the main one is about forgiveness of all suffering—not only your own but the world’s. Also, people don’t often know this, but women were very restricted in what they could do, but so were men. There were so many things men couldn’t do. I come from a working-class background, and men were not supposed to cry in public when people died. That kind of hierarchy isn’t important. What’s really important is that she [Chris] survives that and doesn’t become bitter.

Citing German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Erickson asks if Davies finds females characters to be inherently more interesting because women are permitted to be more emotionally open. “Men are interesting for what they can’t do,” says Davies. “They may be strong in a completely different way. I think the restrictions apply, but the ways in which men and women solve them are different.”

You can read the interview in full at the LARB’s site.