Death of Terence Davies, director of Distant Voices and Emily Dickinson

The acclaimed British director has died aged 77.

Terence Davies, who directed films such as Distant Voices, The Deep Blue Sea, Emily Dickinson, A Quiet Passion and Siegfried’s Diaries is no more.

The news of his disappearance was shared on his official Instagram page (via Variety): “It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Terence Davies, who passed away peacefully at home after a short illness, today October 7, 2023.

The filmmaker was admired for his period films as well as his first autobiographical trilogy about his childhood in Liverpool. “Being in the past makes me feel safe because I understand this world”, he told the Guardian in 2022.

Although his films were widely recognized, they did not garner a large number of awards, something he viewed more philosophically. “It would have been nice to be recognized by Bafta. Again, there’s also a part of me that thinks: isn’t this just vanity? If a film lives every time it is shown, that is the real reward. I think I achieved what I set out to achieve.


Born in Liverpool and from a large family (ten children) of the British working class, Terence Davies left school at sixteen and worked for twelve years as an accountant, devoting his leisure time to writing and acting in the theater. It was at the Coventry Drama School, where he enrolled in 1972, that he wrote Children (released in 1976), the first medium-length film and part of a trilogy retracing the life of Robert Tucker. Having entered the National Television and Film School, he completed and completed with Madonna and Child in 1980 and Death and Transfiguration in 1983, the story of his alter-ego, an accountant in Liverpool. Brought together in 1984 under the title The Terence Davies trilogy, these films were presented and awarded at festivals in Europe and the United States.

It was only with his first feature film, Distant Voices (1988), that the director finally achieved international recognition, the film winning, among other things, the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Festival and being presented at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes where it received the International Critics’ Prize. He then signed The Long Day Closes (1992), his fourth autobiographical film, which was also presented at Cannes but this time in Official Competition and was crowned best film at the Birmingham Film Festival. Followed by The Neon Bible (again in Official Competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995) and Among the Happy People of the World (2000), two adaptations of novels, one by John Kennedy Toole, the other by Edith Wharton.

Mainly known for his work as a filmmaker, Terence Davies also played in numerous series in the 70s and participated in the documentary Father and Son by Colin Browne (1992). In 2008, he wrote and directed his own documentary Of Time and the City, an ode to Liverpool which, like most of his films, was presented at the Cannes Film Festival, but Out of Competition for this one. Mixing past/present and refusing the linear story and narrative clarity, Terence Davies highlights the idea of ​​cinema as an art practiced with small budgets and modest intentions.

In 2002, he prepared a fifth work, Sunset Song, adaptation of the novel by Lewis Grassic Gibson, but the project was blocked in 2005, the necessary funds being refused despite the presence of Kirsten Dunst in the main role. The project returned to the forefront in 2012, without the actress being attached to it. In the meantime, Terence Davies turned The Deep Blue Sea (2012), a passionate love story set in the 1950s between two characters played by Rachel Weisz and the rising star of British cinema Tom Hiddleston.

Terence Davies next directs Cynthia Nixon in the biopic Emily Dickinson, A Quiet Passion which comes out in 2017. His latest film, Siegfried’s Notebooks, is presented in October 2021 at the BFI London Film Festival. The acclaimed project earned its stars Jack Lowden and Peter Capaldi a Scottish BAFTA nomination, as well as its own director-screenwriter a nomination for best screenplay at the British Independent Film Award. The feature film, still unreleased in France, should see the light of day on our screens on March 6, 2024.

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