Monday, March 19, 2012

Master of time, place & feeling, Terence Davies is back with THE DEEP BLUE SEA

I have heard certain film fans equate the work of Terence Davies (Of Time and the City, The House of Mirth, The Neon Bible, The Long Day Closes and Distant Voices, Still Lives) with nostalgia. Well, yes, all of Davies' film deal with the past. But they are so much more than mere nostalgia that TrustMovies never thinks of that word when a Davies film comes up. So keenly and meaningfully does this movie-maker capture time and place, together with the feelings that these arouse in his narrator or protagonist that Mr. Davies creates an unforgettable world like no one else's -- which we can then enter. He has done it again with THE DEEP BLUE SEA, a shimmering, classic testament to the power of love and lust to create and destroy.

In his new film, which he directed and adated from the play by Terence Rattigan, in addition to offering up a place (England) and a time (post-WWII) and those "feelings" he is so adept at churning, Mr. Davies (shown at left) has given one of our finest actresses, Rachel Weisz (Agora) the chance the inhabit one of modern literature's great dissections of a woman overcome with and by love. Ms Weisz (below) does the role proud, and Mr. Davies does the same by Ratttigan, though in a manner more elusive and impressionistic than what the playwright achieved. I wonder what the late Terence would think of this work by the Terence still with us? I'd like to imagine he'd be surprised, and then, after a time of getting used to it, thrilled.

Initially, it is a surprise to view Weisz, above, as someone so passive and acted upon. Yet the more we see and study her, the more it is clear how -- after a passion-free marriage to her husband, a judge (beautifully limned by Simon Russell Beale, below) -- her adulterous affair with the former RAF pilot, played with energy, charm and more than a hint of trouble by a fine Tom Hiddleston (shown two photos below, of Thor, Midnight in Paris and War Horse), has not simply knocked her off her feet but damaged her balance and her ability to understand and act.

All this is shown rather than told us, with Davies' usual quiet camera, and his long takes and splendid use of music (from the song sung in the subway air raid to the 50s standard You Belong to Me). If the filmmaker were not so damned empathetic (and Ms Weisz not so riveting and deeply embedded in her character), we might grow tired of this troubled woman who's clearly a pain to those around her and a danger to herself. But we don't.

Instead we begin to identify even more strongly with her character Hester, and then, amazingly enough, with everyone else. The two Terences have given us a deep, sad and finally kind lesson about love in many of its forms.

From the stern but understanding landlady (played by Ann Mitchell) to the would-be doctor who helps in time to trouble, to the husband and his cold, graceless mother (a fine job by Barbara Jefford, below) and even the somewhat callow lover: Everyone is doing the best s/he can, which makes the film all the sadder -- and then all the wiser.

This is a rich, warm movie -- and one that is, as you'd expect from Mr. Davies, exceedingly beautiful. It is also quiet and almost shockingly calm. Even the melodrama -- yes, love can be quite melodramatic -- is subdued. But if you've ever experienced heart-break, you should be able to identify. And as a film buff, you'll bask.

The Deep Blue Sea (98 minutes, from Music Box Films) opens this Friday in a raft of cities in New York, California and Florida and will then expand elsewhere across the country. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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