Distant Voices, Still Lives

Distant Voices, Still Lives ★★★★★

Distant Voices, Still Lives is a powerhouse in the sub-genre of "memory films." The beginning of each scene is framed almost like a photograph. Semi-autobiographical, set in working class Liverpool circa 1940s through the 1950s, the film is told in the manner in which memory itself works, through bits and pieces, fragmented moments and associations freeing itself of a straightforward narrative, bringing more life to the story or stories, as the viewer flows from one to the next, backwards and forwards, though never losing continuity and always coherent. Director Terence Davies does a splendid job of (for the most part) avoiding the trappings that can be found within the genre. For instance, the film never slides into nostalgia, always keeping a clear eye on the past, and because of the structure amongst other elements never feels too contrived or mere recreations of memorable events. Davies' eye for detail and the small, seemingly insignificant parts of a memory, a character tick, a glance, a silence gives the film its authenticity, keeping it fresh throughout. This is also aided by the amazing set design and costumes as well. The audience is never merely a spectator but present in the past, which makes the moments of a memory inside of a memory accessible and gripping as we weave our way through this moving photo album. Distant Voices, Still Lives is a truly poetic, transcendental film, poetic being an overused word these days but not a better word could be found to describe it. It is a testimony of loss, pain, growing, joy and the all-consuming nature of time.

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