Openly gay British filmmaker Terence Davies describes his latest film “Sunset Song” as, “an intimate epic about the nature of love and forgiveness.” It opens Friday, May 20 at Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema.
Based on the beloved 1932 novel by the Scottish writer Lewis Grassic Gibbon and adapted by Davies himself, the movie follows the joys and sorrows (mostly sorrows) of Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), the daughter of a Scottish farmer in the early 1900s who feels an almost mystical connection to the land.
Davies has been interested in the material since he saw a television adaptation of the novel on BBC Scotland.
“In 1971,” he says, “when I was still a teenager, the BBC did a dramatization of the novel and I waited for every single episode to come out. You couldn’t record things in those days. After that I read the books. It’s one of those great stories you never forget.”
At the time, Davies never planned to do his own adaptation of the book. In fact, he admits he became a filmmaker “by accident,” when after many rejections, the BFI Production Board offered him a chance to direct what would become the first part of an eponymous trilogy.
His love of movies was developed at a young age. His sisters — he’s the youngest of 10 — started taking him to the movies when he was 7. His first film was “Singin’ In The Rain,” which is still his favorite movie. He was also enraptured by “all the lovely musicals with Doris Day: ‘Young at Heart,’ ‘The Pajama Game’ and ‘Love Me or Leave Me.’ I think the American musical was one of the greatest cultural gifts to the world.”
The young Davies was also drawn to the great melodramas of the 1940s and 1950s — films like “All That Heaven Allows,” “Magnificent Obsession” and “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.” He credits their vibrant color schemes as informing his own “instinctive” visual style, despite the harsh circumstances that surround Chris Guthrie in “Sunset Song.”
Davies says he’s drawn to material where women are central characters. In his next film, “A Quiet Passion,” Davies explores the life of Emily Dickinson. The movie, which will be released in the fall, stars Cynthia Nixon as the reclusive American poet.
But what Davies really wants to do is direct a musical and he has his eyes on Stephen Sondheim’s spectacular “Follies.” Davies even met with the composer to discuss the project, but was told the rights were not available.
“I think it’s a great score,” Davies says. “What a genius he is. It was a joy to meet him.”