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10 November 1945
10 November 1945
Terence Davies (born 10 November 1945) is an English screenwriter, film director, sometime novelist and actor. As a filmmaker, Davies is noted for his recurring themes of emotional (and sometimes physical) endurance, the influence of memory on everyday life and the potentially crippling effects of dogmatic religiosity on the emotional life of individuals and societies. Stylistically, Davies' works are notable for their symmetrical compositions, "symphonic" structure and measured pace. He is also the sole screenwriter of all his films. Contrary to the credits accorded him on IMDB.com, Terence Davies has never acted professionally. 
Davies was born in Kensington, Liverpool to working-class Catholic parents, the youngest child in a family of ten children. Though raised Catholic by his deeply religious mother, he later rejected religion and considers himself an atheist.
After leaving school at sixteen, he worked for ten years as a shipping-office clerk and as an unqualified accountant, before leaving Liverpool to attend Coventry Drama School. While there, he wrote the screenplay for what became his first autobiographical short, Children (1976), filmed under the auspices of the BFI Production Board. After this introduction to film-making, Davies went to the National Film School, completing Madonna and Child (1980), a continuation of the story of Davies' alter ego, Robert Tucker, covering his years as a clerk in Liverpool. Three years later, he completed the trilogy with Death and Transfiguration (1983), in which he hypothesizes the circumstances of his death. These works went on to be screened together at film festivals throughout Europe and the U.S. as The Terence Davies Trilogy, winning numerous awards. Davies, who is gay, frequently explores gay themes in his films.
Due to funding difficulties and his refusal to compromise, Davies' output has been comparatively sporadic, with only five feature films released to date. Despite his modest output, Davies' reputation among critics and film scholars has grown steadily, and he's widely considered "Britain’s greatest living filmmaker."
Davies' first two features, Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes, are very autobiographical films set in forties and fifties Liverpool, and they are his most celebrated works. In reviewing Distant Voices, Still Lives when it was first released, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote that "years from now when practically all the other new movies currently playing are long forgotten, it will be remembered and treasured as one of the greatest of all English films." When the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound Magazine polled film critics in 2002 on the best films of the previous 25 years, Distant Voices, Still Lives placed in the top ten at #9. Jean-Luc Godard, often dismissive of British cinema in general, singled out Distant Voices, Still Lives as a major exception, calling it "magnificent." The Long Day Closes is also considered a masterpiece, with J. Hoberman calling it "Davies' most autobiographical and fully achieved work."
Davies' next two features, The Neon Bible and The House of Mirth, were adaptations of novels by John Kennedy Toole and Edith Wharton, respectively. The House of Mirth in particular was widely acclaimed, with Film Comment naming it one of the 10 best films of 2000. Gillian Anderson would also win Best Performance in the Second Annual Village Voice Film Critics' Poll, and the film was named the third best film of 2000 in the same poll.
Soon after completing The House of Mirth, Davies intended fifth feature was Sunset Song, an adaptation of the novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Financing proved difficult as Scottish and international backers left the project after the BBC, Channel 4, and the UK Film Council each rejected proposals for final funds. Davies apparently considered Kirsten Dunst for the lead role before the project was postponed.
In the interim, Davies produced two works for radio, A Walk To The Paradise Garden, an original radio play broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 2001, and a two-part radio adaptation of Virginia Woolf's The Waves, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in September 2007.
The long interval between films ended with his first documentary Of Time and the City, which was premiered out of competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. The work uses vintage newsreel footage, contemporary popular music and a narration by Davies himself as a bittersweet paean to his hometown of Liverpool. It received rave reviews on its premiere.
His most recent work is The Deep Blue Sea, based on the play by Sir Terence Rattigan, which was commissioned by the Rattigan Trust. The film was also met with widespread acclaim, with Rachel Weisz winning the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress and topping the Village Voice Film Critics' Poll for best lead female performance as well.
After the success of The Deep Blue Sea, financing for Sunset Song finally came through and production began in winter 2012. It is expected to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. Davies is also set to direct Uncle Vanya at Wyndham's Theatre in 2013.