Davies would end his career with a stunning trio of films that still feel underrated: 2012’s “Sunset Song,” 2016’s “A Quiet Passion,” and 2021’s “Benediction.” The films all earned 3.5-4 stars on this site, and I can’t help but be struck by the end of Odie Henderson’s review of what will now be the bittersweet final work of Mr. Davies: “This is one of Davies’ best films, as equally detached as his earlier work yet brimming with emotions that are a little closer to the surface than we expect from him. It’s interesting that he named this film “Benediction.” Webster’s describes a benediction as a Catholic sacrament, but also as the last prayer of a religious service. The last poem we hear is the one Owen wrote for Sassoon, presented over the haunting visual accompaniment of an injured soldier. It serves as a perfect encapsulation of Sassoon’s work and his survivor’s guilt. For him, this is a final moment of grace, a closing prayer.”
Whoever takes up the mantle of “the keeper of British cinema” now has some big shoes to fill.
Several contributors to this site have written about the work of Terence Davies, and we have run three conversations with the man himself, always giving and eloquent. Highlights below:
Michal Oleszczyk on the Criterion release of “The Long Day Closes” in 2014
“”The Long Day Closes” is Terence Davies’ masterpiece, a film that was nominated for and deserved to be awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival in 1992 (Bille August’s “The Best Intentions” won), and instead fell into near-oblivion (it wasn’t even released on European DVD until 2008, with the current Criterion Collection edition finally alleviating the film’s absence from American home video). It is so perfectly executed and meticulous, it seems to have emerged straight from Davies’ consciousness, without alteration or interference. As the cinematographer Michael Coulter aptly put it: “[Terence] had already made the film in his head (…) and we immortalized it.”
Interview: Terence Davies on “Sunset Song” (by me)
“What happens is that you can’t get away from all of the films that you’ve watched. They come back refracted through you in a different way. And that’s always much more interesting. I grew up in a era of what we call “the woman’s picture,” and my sister took me to see “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” “All that Heaven Allows,” and all that. And so I grew up on that, and you can’t get away from the influence that had. And then trying to make it, but it’s got to sing, it has got to be filmmaking, and it doesn’t really matter if it’s a man or woman who is a main character, the fact is that it’s got to be true to that. I think I probably do take extracts from little bits and things, but I’m not conscious of it. Because with it becomes conscious, then it becomes false.”