The Deep Blue Sea's Terence Davies is bloody mad
Terence Davies is one of the world’s great filmmakers and a truly magnificent crank.
Speaking to the Georgia Straight from his home in Essex, the 66-year-old Liverpudlian takes only seconds to begin delivering stately opinions on everything from the decline of cinema (“They act all over the place and you see the same faces and you think, ‘Oh dear, there’s got to be more to life than this’ ”) to the atrociousness of the Beatles (“I’ve never liked them. Those bloody awful songs. I think the lyrics are so banal. Money can’t buy me love? God almighty, I wish I’d said that”).
On the subject of The Deep Blue Sea—which stars Rachel Weisz as a woman embroiled in class conflict, adultery, and unseemly passion in ’50s Britain and which opens on Friday (April 13)—Davies answers with an unimpressed sigh when asked how much remains of the nicotine-coloured, postwar era captured so vividly in his new film, even in the memory of the average Brit.
“It’s as remote as, you know, the Punic Wars,” he says. “Britain has changed out of all proportion. It’s imploded. As Gore Vidal once said, ‘Britain isn’t a country; it’s an American aircraft carrier,’ and he’s right. That idea of behaving well, good manners—all that’s gone; it’s just disappeared, and I think we’ve become one of the most uncivilized countries in Europe.”
Given that statement, not to mention a recent Oscar-winning, historically revisionist performance by Meryl Streep, it would be remiss to not probe the filmmaker about the Iron Lady’s contribution to England’s demise. He doesn’t disappoint.
“What she did is she made venality a virtue, which is disgraceful,” he says. “I think she really is one of the most pernicious politicians this country’s ever produced.”
Davies adds that the Americanization that swallowed Britain in Thatcher’s wake—“Like Hawaii but without the decent weather,” he sniffs—was a key element in the obliteration of the restrained British psyche examined affectingly but not uncritically in his new film, not to mention older efforts like his 1988 masterpiece, Distant Voices, Still Lives.
“In certain areas you can still find it, but the national reticence has gone,” he says. “I mean, everybody cries all the time for the slightest thing, you know? Look at that drivel that went on after Princess Diana died. I’m sorry she died at such a young age, no one should, but she was a parasite. Why should we be weeping about somebody who’s never done a stroke of work? And we’re paying taxes so that she can change her dress every time she goes to the lavatory? I’m sorry, that’s not why I pay my taxes.”
Lest anyone should think these statements reveal Mr. Davies as some sort of heartless cur, he continues: “It’s not like it was in Norway, where innocent people were just mown down by this madman. That’s something to genuinely mourn.”
In any event, the man’s basic integrity is right there on the screen—both in the precision sense of craft he habitually brings to his work, and in the unfussy empathy he extends to his repressed, confused, aching characters.
Indeed, although we probably should be talking a little more about The Deep Blue Sea—which, for the record, was informed by the films of Douglas Sirk and David Lean’s Brief Encounter—the bottom line is that a new Terence Davies movie really needs no more recommendation than his name in the credits.
Watch the trailer for The Deep Blue Sea.