Terence Davies comes to Cornerhouse

Last week we were pleased to welcome talented director Terence Davies for a Q&A at Cornerhouse. Digital Reporter Emma Chibulu was lucky enough to be there…

The screening room filled out row by row with excited cinema-goers, whilst a faint tune of Glen Miller flowed from the speakers overhead. The sold out screen was waiting to see The Deep Blue Sea, but this was not any ordinary screening, as the director himself was to be present to give a show of his own. To long and loud applause, Terence Davies made his way to the front to introduce his film. The applause was not just a polite hello; it was a wordless, but audible welcome back.

Davies had been quiet for quite some time. His last film was the 2008 documentary Of Time and the City, an elegiac love letter to Liverpool, the city where Davies grew up. It was commissioned as part of a trio of films for Liverpool’s year as Capital of Culture. Before that his last film had been eleven years ago, with the Edith Wharton adaptation, The House of Mirth (2000).

After a brief introduction (and more applause), the lights dimmed and the film began. As the opening began with Barber’s Violin Concerto, the room was suffused with an air of melancholy, but also one of nostalgia. This nostalgia was made all the more present for myself by the taste of cinema, in the popcorn flavoured jellybean, handed to me during the opening credits. The Deep Blue Sea is a story of a woman trapped in a triangle of unrequited love, set in a world of post-war social constraints. Despite showing the grittier side of those dark days, it also shows a love of cinema and a nostalgia for the decade in which the film is set. This love of cinema and mood of nostalgia was present each syllable of the following Q&A.

The film is an adaptation of a Terence Rattigan play and was made as part of his centenary year. Davies told the audience of how he came to choose his source material and how he then adapted the story for the screen. He defended his choices to cut certain characters and add scenes in, based mainly upon a desire to make the film more realistic and the characters more believable. He recounted a piece of advice from a difficult day of filming, when his script supervisor asked him to consider if the action was true. He asserted that it would not be convincing to merely photograph a play and that the beauty of the medium of film is in how it can provide perspectives through camerawork. In being given the privilege of tracking shots and close ups, film does not need certain characters to tell you the sub-text, as the freedom of subjectivity gives meaning without words.

Davies told a great range of anecdotes, all with one common thread linking back to his childhood. The films of Hitchcock, Lean and Sirk, along with the Hollywood musicals that inspired him, form part of his memories. Memory itself plays a huge role in his previous films, displaying tableux vivants of semi-autobiographical tales in a lost decade. His answers to the audience questions were accompanied with anecdotes from his memories, filled with humour, but also touched with great pathos. Eyes dewy at the end of the film wept once more, upon hearing Davies tell us how Hester’s letting go of a loved one was a reminder of the death of his mother. Finding his mother’s red slippers after her death had influenced one of the last scenes of the film, where Hester finds Freddy’s forgotten gloves. He described the feeling of wanting to die from sheer despair, but how ultimately true love can mean letting go of the one you love. Davies left the stage with an even more rapturous applause than that with which he entered and an audience waiting to see what he may do next.

The Deep Blue Sea screens until Thur 15 Dec. Buy your tickets here.