To mark the release of Benediction - a lilting, witty, deeply moving portrait of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon - Tyneside Cinema is delighted to present Living as Poetry: A Tribute to Terence Davies.

Widely regarded as Britain’s greatest living filmmaker, Davies has directed a relatively modest 12 films over the course of the past 45 years. From his early autobiographical, Liverpool-set films (Trilogy, Distant Voices, Still Lives, The Long Day Closes) to his beautiful, underseen American literary adaptations (The Neon Bible, The House of Mirth) through to the flourishing productivity of Davies’ career over the past decade, the result is a singular body of work.

Presenting all of Davies’ work to date alongside a full run of Benediction, every film included here is instantly recognisable for his thematic preoccupations: social and religious oppression, the haunting pull of memory, overbearing authority figures (especially fathers), a focus on the lives of women as well as young men wrestling with gay desire, a private cultivation of selfhood, and the rapturous release of our innermost feelings, often through poetry and song. Davies unleashes the whirlpool of emotion lying beneath the surface of all his stories with some of the most expressive flourishes in all of cinema, contrasting often austere, portrait-like framing with slow, languorous travelling shots and the expressive use of music, which are used to represent moments of emotional release, as well as the intrusion of our memories into the present.

Taking their influence from the structure of symphonies and poems, Davies’ films are some of the most moving and rhapsodic ever made, filled with moments of joy, laughter and heartbreak. Whether recounting his own difficult 1950s upbringing; stories of troubled families and doomed affairs; portraying the stifling worlds written about by Edith Wharton, Lewis Grassic Gibbon and Terence Rattigan; or exploring the inner turmoil of figures such as Emily Dickinson and Sassoon, what unites all these films is a deep understanding of the human condition, and a staggering empathy for those – including Davies himself – who yearn to be free.

We hope you will be as moved by these films as we have been.


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