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British filmmaker Terence Davies dies at 77

Terence Davies, director of <em>The Deep Blue Sea</em>, poses for a portrait in September 2011 during the 36th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada.
Carlo Allegri
Terence Davies, director of The Deep Blue Sea, poses for a portrait in September 2011 during the 36th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada.

British screenwriter and film director Terence Davies died on Saturday at the age of 77.

According to the critically acclaimed filmmaker's official Instagram account, he died peacefully at home after a short illness.

Davies was best known for autobiographical films such as Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes as well as his adaptation of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, starring Gillian Anderson.

Born in 1945, Davies grew up as the youngest of 10 children in a working class Catholic family in Liverpool, England. His father, who was violent and abusive, died of cancer when Davies was a young boy.

In a 2016 NPR story around the release of his movie Sunset Song, the filmmaker said life got better after that. But he still struggled to reconcile his religious upbringing with his homosexuality.

"I have a great deal of difficulty in forgiving things that have been done to you in the past that have damaged you," he said. "And in the end you have to be able to forgive, otherwise you're always chained to the past."

Davies' films have earned critical acclaim over his more than 40-year career. In 2002, the British film magazine Sight & Sound listed his breakout 1988 autobiographical feature Distant Voices, Still Lives among the top 10 films made within the previous 25 years. French film auteur Jean-Luc Godard was also a fan.

But as a filmmaker working outside of the mainstream Hollywood system, Davies struggled to get his films made.

"The industry is geared to making money, and it's geared around stars," Davies told NPR's Scott Simon in 2022 when his film Benediction came out. "How can you compete with a film that cost $40 million?"

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.
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