Sunday, 18 October 2015

LFF REVIEW - SUNSET SONG (TERENCE DAVIES)


The world outside is transformed inside, the land itself enduring in the mind. Terence Davies pits the physical against the emotional and the theoretical, arranging a conflict that he never manages to fully wrestle out of Lewis Grassic Gibson's novel. Only when he reconciles these elements does Sunset Song cohere, whereupon it makes total sense: Scottish farm owners with little active awareness of the rest of the world, defining themselves by their thoughts and feelings, as Davies does too. His didactic, decontextualised style strips characters of their situational identity, instead rendering them as fleshed-out entities by their manners of expression. They are presented as individuals, Davies bringing forth a heartfelt directness from each; there's a benevolent complexity that he in turn brings forth from Gibson's writing, and the combination of directness and indecision is more conceptually satisfying than dramatically. Sunset Song eventually resolves into a film which both Davies and his audience might be able to sink their teeth into - a politicised war movie with an increasingly impassioned performance from Agyness Deyn at its centre. This is rousing stuff, and you can feel the conviction of belief that has brought it from page to screen and into our hearts upon watching. A pity it arrives after 90 minutes of what amounts to little more than character building and narrative exposition - sensitive, indeed, and evidently the work of a great filmmaker, but not one working at his greatest. Sunset Song is a rewarding film, though, suffused with rich sensorial details like the rustle of tissue paper or a linen wedding veil, the sensuality of a woollen sock slowly rolled down or a bread loaf being kneaded. These linger longest of Sunset Song's many attributes, but its failing is in not ensuring that its other attributes lingered longer still.