Directed by Terence Davies
Starring Peter Mullan, Agyness Deyn, Kevin Guthrie, Hugh Ross and Douglas Rankine
The daughter of a Scottish farmer comes of age in the early 1900s.
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★★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
Every new Terence Davies film feels like a miracle, in no small part because most of them are. Not even Terry Gilliam has had such a tough time of shepherding projects to the screen. Davies' style has alienated him to most financiers, his shame has alienated him from many queer critics and his nature has denied him the reverent mystique that clings to other auteurs who make films at the same rate — Davies has been butchered for many of the same qualities that make Terrence Malick a holy cow. He's now 70 years old, and each of his successfully completed films arrives like a merciful act of the God to whom Davies no longer speaks.
Never has that been more true than it is of "Sunset Song," which is faithful enough to Lewis Grassic Gibbon's 1932 novel of the same name that the author is granted a possessive credit in the film's opening title card. Gibbon's story has been swelling within him since he was first enraptured by the BBC miniseries adapted from it in 1971, and at least 16 years have passed since he began actively trying to make his version (a span during which the project was killed and resurrected enough times to earn the holy hush that it inspires from those who worship at the altar of this determinedly irreligious auteur). But the real miracle of "Sunset Song" is that Davies, who has suffered so much — and found so little value in his suffering — has made a movie that vividly captures the bittersweet beauty of life on earth. Davies has described Gibbon's novel as "a story which deserves to be told." Now it is a film that demands to be seen.
★★★★★ review by Jared on Letterboxd
An invigorating blend of old and new, both challenging and dynamic, uniquely sweet and sorrowful, Sunset Song deserves to be celebrated. This film has a soul, a deeply felt emotional core that reveals itself over the course of Davies well earned two hour run time. He employs formalist techniques; perfect symmetry, painterly landscapes and overtly authentic interiors, and blends them seamlessly with fresh and vibrant postmodernist touches. The wind, birds, mud and crickets provide a soaring score; the subtlety underpinning every line of dialogue, every dramatic quarrel is swiftly emphasized by their smallness relative to the sweeping landscapes. Davies' core idea is something I haven't seen since Westerns of old, the awareness of consistency, of the eternal. People, their relationships, triumphs and tragedies come and go but the land, the earth beneath them remains. It's stoic in tone, reminding us that all we have to do is make the best of what we have, remain thankful for what we have and take pleasure in the moments we later recognize are invaluable. It's a beautiful film that recognizes the merit in suffering, the necessary strength we need to derive from it. This is one of those films that cuts you so deeply in such an offhanded way you don't realize it until the credits roll.
Sunset Song is one of those films that feels absolutely necessary. Terence Davies' sensibilities are so starkly contrasting to the cinematic world in general right now, so patient and content it feels like a return to a time when dramatic narratives dominated the attention of film lovers everywhere. Reports indicate it was a tumultuous process getting this made, Davies notoriously draws a smaller audience and there's no superhero to be seen in this. It's a small miracle, this film, and one that ought to be enjoyed by everyone, not only as a palette cleanser but a cinematic song that stirred me to my core.
★★★★ review by josh lewis on Letterboxd
the patriarchy... not great imo
★★★★½ review by Melissa Tamminga on Letterboxd
"He could fair play, the piper, he tore at your heart marching there with the tune leaping up the moor and echoing across the loch . . . " ~Lewis Grassic Gibbon
Terence Davies, filmmaker, piper.
★★★★½ review by Melissa Tamminga on Letterboxd
At the center of Terence Davies’s new film, Sunset Song, adapted from Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 book of the same title, is a wedding. It is a modest affair, a barn for its stage, humble farming folk its participants. It is a celebration of love, a communal joyful gathering, a candle-bright warm pocket in the middle of a dark, snowy New Year’s Eve. And when the bride, Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), sees the barn, prepared by her friends, she says, delighted, “It is like a picture book.” And it is.
In the midst of the merriment, the company calls for a song from the bride, and she sits at their center and sings. It is a sunset song, glowing in the deep colors of grief for the day that has gone, a song for the dead, a song of mourners. It is “Flooers of the Forest,” traditionally a tune played by pipers to commemorate those Scots lost in battle. A strange choice, it might seem at first, for a wedding, but a choice that gets at the heart of this story, this place, this people, and at the heart of Chris herself. A mournful song is itself a thing of intrinsic paradox: the beauty of its words or music sit, impossibly, within the grief. The song might seem, to a strictly literal mind, to devalue the grief by the very beauty, and yet it is not a devaluation. The grief itself is more grievous, the deeper the beauty of the song. And so such a song defies the intellect, bowing to mystery.
Sunset Song queries this mystery and embraces it, and giving oneself over to the story is a bit like giving up a part of one’s rational self. . . .
Read the rest over at Seattle Screen Scene.
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