Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Sunset Song

Reviews - Sunset Song

Sunset Song

Reviewed By Vaughan Ames

Sunset Song
Sunset Song
As readers of the Reminder will know, we were lucky enough to have Terence Davies (the director) to answer questions at the end of our showing of 'Sunset Song' on Sunday. He proved to be a good raconteur and gave us some great tips on making a movie – never work with sheep, and watch out for horses letting off wind! Between his jokes, there was a lot of great information on the problems of getting money to make 'art' films and auditioning actors. As someone said to me afterwards, 'he made the event even more complete'. Our thanks go to him for that, and, especially for the film.

'Sunset Song' has taken Davies 18 years to bring about and it was well worth the wait. I don't want to give too much away as the film will be shown again at the Alhambra in a few weeks; if you missed it on Sunday, I recommend you try to catch it then. The basic plot follows the life of Chris Guthrie (played by ex-model Agyness Deyn), brought up on a Scottish farm by a tyrant father (Peter Mullen, brilliant as always) and a beaten-down mother. After her father dies, she marries Ewan (Kevin Guthrie) and has a child of her own before World War One hits their lives in Scotland.

Like all Terence Davies films, the story is about suffering, the problems of a strong tyrant father and Catholicism – all very close to Davies' own upbringing. As always, his characters are very real: there was a debate in the discussion after the film about the father being too gentle at some points and Davies explained that real people are 'multi-dimensional'. His own father had been completely unpredictable; one minute happy, the next totally angry.

It is this reality that Davies has been famous for since his first full length film 'Distant Voices, Still Lives' in 1988 – a black and white, semi-autobiographical account of a small boy growing up in Liverpool. That was a seminal film which put Davies in the ranks of great British directors, which he has never left. It was one of the first films that inspired me to realise just how good 'art' films can be!

In 'Sunset Song', we had the added benefit of beautiful scenery too. Davies makes his films almost as a series of 'paintings' strung together, so that each scene is beautiful (he admitted to being a fan of Vermeer, which showed with the many shots of sunlight through windows...). In this case, he was playing with the hills of Scotland (and New Zealand where he filmed some of it!), so the scenery was inspiring too.

As you can tell, I loved this film and most of the audience did too; see it if you can!

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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