Distant Voices, Still Lives

Distant Voices, Still Lives ★★★★½

Asif Khan's #3 Film Selection for Edgar

When personally approaching an autobiography, what I respect the most about its author is his/her honesty. As an impressionistic autobiography of Daivies, he captures not only the idealization of the 1940s and 1950s through the representation of the feelings and media influences of an era submerged in war times and the radio days, but also builds a collage that time travels across distinct times to conform a complex present that is still paying the consequences of its past. It is unafraid of exposing the psychological and physical internal domestic conflicts that a family ("his" family, as that of many others) had to go through even at the expense of cognitive dissonance when he have striking contemplative poetry as a visual backdrop, or transitions that seem to be entirely made of light, like mimicking how memories tend to vanish into oblivion. This is not said to suggest that people cannot change and that we are axiomatically tied to our past personalities and things cannot change either, but time is indeed irreversible, and "for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Galatians 6: 7-8). Our sweet Sally Jane's review accurately captures the irreversible timelessness of past actions being translated into the present, as well as how, as a personal essay, it is self-confident enough to contrast the idealization of an era vs. family troubles such as domestic violence. It is an unbiased letter with an open heart that contemplates everything and reflects on it regardless of the cost.

It is hard to grasp the depth of the multiple layers of nostalgia, contemplation and reflection that this film carries despite its shockingly short running time. Conceived deep within Davies' memories and sentiments, this proud winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival of 1988, as has been correctly referenced by some, draws its influences all the way to one of the best filmmakers working today: Apichatpong Weerasethakul. This habit of recalling our past lives is the most appropriate way to emotionally convolute a story, just like adding politics into a film (not the case of this film I must clarify) convolutes plot evolution.


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