I’m not interested in what happened next; I’m interested in what happens emotionally next. It’s like memory. Memory isn’t linear. It’s cyclical. A tiny thing can be the thing that’s more interesting. So that, of course, was determined by my discovering T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets when I was 18. Just wonderful. Just some of the greatest poetry that’s ever been written in English. “The flowers had the look of flowers that are looked at.” When you arrive at the train station, “while the narrowing rails slide together behind you, leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about.” I mean, that is cinema. –Terence Davies1
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Benediction (2022), the latest feature from British filmmaker Terence Davies, transforms the life of its central subject, the war poet Siegfried Sassoon (played in his younger years by Jack Lowden, and in his old age by Peter Capaldi), into an impressionistic tone poem. Rather than charting the life of his subject from beginning to end, as in a traditional biopic, Davies jumps back and forth between different events in the poet’s life (some are clearly grand and well documented, others are minor and seemingly insignificant) according to a sometimes oblique associative logic. In doing so, Davies not only continues his career-long interest in exploring the nature of human memory through nonlinear montage, he also experiments with the potential for cinematic language to capture the tone, texture, and tenor of his subject’s poetic verse. Sassoon’s body of work articulates a desire to grapple with the lingering after-effects that his experience in the trenches during the first war left on his psyche. It is this aspect of Sassoon’s poetry that Benediction focuses on in particular. Although Davies does not directly depict the battlefield – the only glimpses of warfare we see are photographs and pieces of archival newsreels scattered throughout the film – it hangs over the entire feature like an oppressive weight; the depth of the horrors he witnessed and the violence he was forced to commit haunt Sassoon through every waking moment, and the postwar amnesia he encounters upon his return to British society only intensifies his feeling of alienation from those around him. As this article will illustrate, Davies’s fragmented, achronological use of montage is ideally suited to representing an artist who himself experimented with temporal ellipses, the structure of remembrance, and fractured identity.
Since he ascended to the forefront of British art cinema in the late 1980s, scholars and critics have found it difficult to categorise Davies’s films. Because his work is characterized by the depiction of working-class life, the use of on-location shooting, a focus on the minutiae of everyday phenomena, and the incorporation of distinctly British cultural markers (from listening to the radio comedy programme Round the Horne to checking the football pools in the newspaper), Davies’s work has often been associated with the social realist tradition exemplified by filmmakers like Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Karel Reisz. But if, as Martin Hunt argues, social realism in British cinema has historically operated according to the philosophy that the inequality and injustice rampant in British society “can only be communicated through an art based upon condensation and the use of typical characters but which also maintained a unity with the world it is seeking to represent,” then Davies’s work represents a substantial divergence from this tradition.2 As Jonathan Rosenbaum acknowledges, “English kitchen-sink realism is not a mode for which I have much affection, and while there might be some academic relationship between Distant Voices, Still Lives and such hallmarks of that mode as This Sporting Life, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, A Taste of Honey, and Georgy Girl, I think that such a comparison winds up confusing a lot more than it clarifies.”3 Indeed, from the very beginning of his career, Davies has demonstrated an interest in destabilising spatiotemporal unity, linear plotting, and naturalist aesthetic impulses – all traits associated with the social realist tradition in British filmmaking. Davies’s films are steeped in subjectivity, with the fantasies, dreams, and unreliable memories (often tinted by nostalgia) of his characters seamlessly integrated into his dense audiovisual tapestries to the extent that it becomes impossible to discern what is “real” and what is “imagined.” Davies’s films tend to eschew suture, orchestrating dense tapestries of audiovisual fragments that never resolve into a straightforward conclusion or moment of synthesis.
If Davies’s work cannot be categorised as social realist, then, what artistic tradition is the filmmaker working in? It is the contention of this article that there is a considerable and so-far underexplored relationship between modernist literature and the montage techniques of Davies’s films. Interspersed throughout his features are quotations from T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Emily Dickinson, among other artists who belong to the modernist tradition. The prevalence of quotations from modernist novelists and poets throughout Davies’s films indicates a conscious attempt to place his films within a wider intertextual field and illuminates the ways in which the filmmaker has channelled the thematic and aesthetic impulses of literary modernism into his work. Davies has repeatedly voiced his admiration for this period of writing and its large influence on his own construction of time and space. Indeed, he has repeatedly described the poetry of T. S. Eliot, and his collection Four Quartets in particular, as a major touchstone for his artistic practice. In a particularly illuminating recent interview with Leonard Quart, Davies described the moment he “heard Alec Guinness recite from memory Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’ on television” as a formative moment in his youth, and went on to explain that he is so infatuated with the poems that he still “read[s] them once a month.”4 Davies’s filmmaking style shares with the works of the literary modernists of the early twentieth century a number of characteristics, including the breaking down of the boundary between inner and outer experience; a fascination with the nature of subjective human perception; an emphasis on fragmentation and disjunction; an experimental use of structure; and an impulse to depict the multidimensionality of the subject’s experience of the phenomenological world. Considering that these aspects of Davies’s style were present from his very first feature, it should come as no surprise that he has gone on to directly depict the lives and works of modernist poets: first in his sublime portrait of Dickinson, A Quiet Passion, and now Benediction.
Terence Davies and Memory
Davies’s early films are explicitly autobiographical. The Terence Davies Trilogy (1976-1983), Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), and The Long Day Closes (1992) all revisit salient moments from Davies’s childhood and early adult life. In The Terence Davies Trilogy, he details his homosexual awakening, the suffocation of the British education system, and the waning of his faith in God. In Distant Voices, Still Lives, he grapples with the life and death of his father; it is a diptych film in which the first half details the depth of the patriarch’s psychological and mental abuse of his wife and children and the second half shows the family’s painful efforts to overcome that trauma. The Long Day Closes, which depicts Davies’s preadolescent years, following the death of his father and preceding the onset of puberty, is less overtly violent than his other works from this period, but it is still steeped in a sense of melancholy – a feeling that these were the most ecstatic days of Davies life, and they can never be retrieved.
Davies also revisits his childhood in postwar Liverpool in Of Time and the City (2008). This essay film was commissioned by the Liverpool Culture Company as a documentary about the history of the city, but the final product is as much a reflection on the nature of personal and collective memory, and the way that our reminiscences become tied to certain places, as it is a city symphony. In the film, audiovisual footage from documentary features such as A Day in Liverpool (1929), Morning in the Streets (1959), Liverpool Sounding (1967), and Behind the Rent Strike (1974), as well as from amateur recordings, actuality films, newsreels, and television broadcasts, are compiled into associative constellations of sound and image. Each archival image exists as an indexical trace of the city as it existed at a particular moment in time; in divorcing the image from its original context and placing it into a new work of intellectual montage, Davies infuses it with new implications and associations determined by the images that precede and follow it. His selection and editing of this footage inscribes the formal preoccupations featured in his earlier works, making the project feel distinctly like an auteurist vision: the articulation of memory through potent fragments and contrapuntal editing; an achronological structure that leaps, unmoored, through different time periods; the use of music, quotes and decontextualised lines of dialogue as interstitial glue; glacial tracking shots; centred compositions.
Through his careful use of montage techniques and the elegant voice-over narration provided by the filmmaker himself (filled with personal anecdotes, witty musings, and cultural references), Of Time and the City imbues the material with his authorial subjectivity. Rather than creating a grand, totalizing document of the city, detailing its history and its iconic monuments from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day, Davies filters the footage through the lens of his personal experience; he recalls the pain of experiencing the first pangs of homosexual feeling within a strict Catholic family, the joy of taking part in the city’s vibrant cultural scene, and the terror he felt at hearing of the onset of the Korean War. As he explains in an interview published in Cineaste, he was adamant from the beginning of the project that he was “not making a strict documentary,” but a feature “based on my emotional memories – a subjective essay, which I discovered after completion was my farewell to Liverpool.”5 The process of editing the footage relied on a substantial degree of spontaneity and intuitiveness. At no point was there a clear script. Davies began production with a rough selection of literary quotations, musical choices, and aspects of the city that he wished to include in the final product, but he was guided primarily by his direct interaction with the extensive library of archival footage. According to Davies, “There was always a structure there, but what happened was by getting so much archival material the structure and subtextual meaning began to change as we included more things, and it triggered memories of my own, and I said, “Can you get this? . . . Could you get that?”6 Therefore, the act of editing the feature was an active process; rather than beginning with a set plan and line of argumentation, and then choosing archival images to illustrate these predetermined points, Davies searched through the archive, guided by his own intuition and seeking out moments that triggered powerful mnemonic associations. Commonplace sights and sounds, therefore, function as icons of personal and cultural memory, as they are removed from the incessant march of time and brought into Davies’s repository of cinematic images of the city. A 1950s newsreel image depicting a pan from right to left across a series of suburban houses, for example, is isolated and slowed down to grant it a newfound emotional power. This shot is then followed by a series of images depicting the mundane daily rituals associated with this lifestyle, extracted from a variety of other contemporaneous newsreels and documentaries: a local park, a child cycling, a woman tending to a fireplace. These images are heterogeneous fragments pulled from different sources. Through the power of the cut, Davies at once maintains the integrity of their original forms and turns them into nodes within his structural design. On their own, the images may appear to be insignificant, but placed in succession they stand as an expression of the director’s conflicted view of his childhood. The deeply ingrained sense of nostalgia he feels for the simpler times of his youth is offset by the poverty on display – the inequality of wealth and resources is a structural injustice that Davies, in retrospect, is keenly aware of, but as a child was unable to comprehend.
Although Davies relates fond memories of his youth, he refrains from romanticising the past. Indeed, the film is filled with piercing critiques of many British institutions: the amount of public money squandered on preserving the Royal Family and other antiquated aristocratic traditions; the gentrification of the urban spaces over the late twentieth century, pushing independent businesses out of business and forcing the economically impoverished out of the city; the enormous waste of life during the Korean War. Davies encapsulates his complex and ambiguous relationship to the city of his youth in a poetic piece of narration – delivered by Davies himself – early into the film: “We love the place we hate, then hate the place we love. We leave the place we love, then spend a lifetime trying to regain it.” The interplay of “love” and “hate,” the contrast between wanting to bask in romantic reminisces and the inability to return to the naive dreams and idealistic viewpoint one had in childhood, is articulated through this potent passage. The longing to “regain” the past is bound to be frustrated in Davies’s cinema; golden memories can only be visited fleetingly before they fracture and disappear into the void. Davies at once visualises his childhood innocence, his later loss of faith in the institutions he was raised to believe in – the state, the crown, the church – and, when looking back at the golden days of his youth, his realisation, in retrospect, that the corruption of these institutions was built into the years he remembers so fondly.
Although Davies’s Liverpool films most obviously exhibit his autobiographical impulses, his literary adaptations – The Neon Bible (1995), The House of Mirth (2000), Sunset Song (2015) – and biopics also feel deeply personal –A Quiet Passion (2016), Benediction. Though The Neon Bible, for example, takes place in postwar Georgia – a cultural context removed from Davies’s childhood home of mid-century Liverpool – he finds similarities between his own youthful experience and the coming-of-age of the novel’s protagonist, the meek young boy David, seen at ages 10 and 15: the struggle of wrestling with the contrast between the faith one has been raised to believe and the contradictions of institutionalised religion; the pain of growing up under a tyrannical patriarch; the efforts to seek out pockets of grace and beauty within poverty-stricken conditions. Recurrent Davies visual motifs present throughout the Liverpool trilogy appear in his adaption of The Neon Bible, without the sense that Davies is diverting too much from his source material – trains as a bridge between the past and modernity, window frames as a symbol of wistful introspection, spontaneous sing-a-longs as expressions of familial joy within adverse circumstances. There are enough rhymes between Davies’s childhood and the content of the novel to allow the filmmaker to draw on his preestablished cinematic vernacular to bridge the gap between the two authors. Similarly, in A Quiet Passion, Davies effortlessly locates a resonance between the struggles of Dickinson – expressed through her poetry as well as the events of her life – and those of his autobiographical stand-ins. Unrecognised for her poetry within her lifetime, and infatuated with a married Reverend, Dickinson embodies the sense of squandered opportunities and failed romantic endeavours which recur throughout Davies’s body of work. As presented in the film, Dickinson is an introverted spectator of life, a sensitive yet self-chastising soul who fears that she is allowing life to pass her by without realising her full potential. Isolated, marginalised from conventional society, and both artistically and sexually frustrated, she shows her similarities to The Long Day Closes’s Bud or the Terence Davies Trilogy’s Robert Tucker.
Sassoon and Literary Modernism
In Benediction, the resonances between Sassoon’s life and art and those of Davies are particularly pronounced. Sassoon, like Davies, spent much of his youth dealing with his queer identity during a period when homosexuality was illegal in England; both were outspoken pacifists hostile to the state and the monarchy; both had a complex relationship with the Catholic church; both struggled with their feelings toward British culture, admiring certain parts of British toward its colonial history, rigid social mores, and strict class system. Moreover, Sassoon expressed through his literary art a preoccupation with the nature of the intricacies of memory, the passage of time, repression and regret – all themes that crop up repeatedly in Davies’s films. He also shares with Sassoon a fascination with domestic spaces as the setting for intense intimate interpersonal dramas and repositories for collective and familial memories. Like the poet, Davies stages many of his most emotionally potent scenes in cramped rooms that are infused with the weight of all the conflicts and the emotional outpourings that have taken place within them over the decades.
A memory film in the same way that Sassoon’s poems are memory texts, Benediction exudes a dreamlike quality that actively experiments with space and time, interior and exterior, intimacy and artificiality. Sassoon’s postwar body of work is haunted by his memories of the events he experienced between the years of 1914 and 1920: his traumatic experiences fighting in the trenches; the death of his brother in combat; the infamous publication of his protest letter “Finished with the War: A Soldier’s Declaration” (which was also read in the House of Commons); the period he spent being treated for neurasthenia in Craiglockhart War Hospital after several of his friends pulled strings with the upper echelon of the British government to prevent Sassoon from being sent to a court-martial that might have resulted in a death sentence; his therapy sessions with Dr. W. H. R. Rivers (Ben Daniels); the head wound he suffered in 1918, which resulted in him being discharged from service. In his poetry, Sassoon is candid about his difficulty in mentally recovering from the time he spent on the battlefield, detailing the frequent panic attacks, bad dreams, and hallucinations that continued to plague him until his death in 1968 at the age of 80. Sassoon’s poetry paints a portrait of an artist who was incapable of overcoming these early traumatic experiences, and whose failed attempts to integrate these haunting memories into his psyche left him feeling alienated in postwar society. He continuously expresses his regret that his protest letter, although highly publicised, ultimately failed to make any concrete difference in the conduct of the war and his astonishment at the ease with which British society seemed to have moved past the mass-scale atrocities committed during the war.
As Paul Saks acknowledges, Sassoon’s childhood was “privileged, pastoral, and seemingly idyllic.”7 Sassoon was born into considerable wealth and was privately educated until being accepted into Cambridge University to study law and history. Although he ended up leaving the institution before completing his degree, he led a leisurely lifestyle immersed in the social milieu of the British aristocracy. He aspired to be both a man of letters and a powerful athlete, working on his poetry while enjoying leisure activities such as horse riding, croquet, and hunting. As Campbell notes, in Sassoon’s prewar poetry, the reader can detect a desire on the poet’s part to be a public intellectual and, at the same time, to hone his physical strength and be seen as a heroic huntsman. Primarily, Saks observes, in these early texts, one gets the impression that the poet wanted “above all else to be an English gentleman.” It was this belief in the honour of the British state and the “ideal of the hunter and adventurer” that inspired Sassoon to pursue a career in the army before the war in Europe broke out.8
From 1915 to 1917, Sassoon was promoted to the level of second lieutenant with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Much of the poetry Sassoon wrote during the early years of the war took on a nationalistic tone, valorising the ideals of military service, patriotism, and self-sacrifice. As the battle dragged on, though, Sassoon’s view of the war grew increasingly pessimistic, and his poetry began to take on a dissident air. This was compounded by the death of his brother at Gallipoli, followed by the murder of his close friend David Thomas on the front line. Although Sassoon’s early belief in the essential rightness of the war was waning, he expressed his anger at these two personal losses by throwing himself into the battle, accepting with unbridled enthusiasm the task of protecting the men under his command. He garnered a reputation for being reckless in combat, but his devotion to his men was formally recognised when he was awarded the Military Cross in 1916. The bloodbath of the Somme was a turning point for Sassoon, and he began to openly question the morality of the war. After entering into dialogue with multiple seminal pacifist thinkers, Sassoon penned his famous “A Soldier’s Declaration,” in which he questions the British government’s motivations in continuing the war, and accused those at the top of the military’s pecking order of callousness in the face of mass slaughter. In the letter, he also accuses the civilian population of apathy, suggesting that their indifference to the horrors the soldiers of their nation were enduring made them culpable in the horrendous loss of life.
After the publication of the declaration, and his subsequent stay in Craiglockhart, Sassoon’s poetry dropped any semblance of belief in military honour or jingoism. Instead, it became infused with an atmosphere of pessimism, a critical stance toward hallowed British institutions, and a sense that his previous identity had been irrevocably shattered in the trenches. Throughout Sassoon’s postwar poetry, he continuously describes his efforts to shield himself from the horrors of warfare by retreating into the memories of his youth, but these attempts fail for two reasons – first, because of the unshakeable imprint that the wounds of battle imprinted onto his mind, and second, because of his deeply ingrained sense of moral duty to not give in to the collective amnesia regarding the war that he noticed in many of his countrymen.
Although critics have often approached Sassoon’s work through the lens of a Victorian model of aesthetics, Robert Hemmings argues that it is more productive to think of the poet as a literary modernist. Hemmings points to Sassoon’s penchant for disjunctive aesthetics, the intrusion of past events into the present, and images of liminality as factors indicating that his poetry should be recognised as belonging to the modernist project. Hemmings draws a connection between Sassoon’s treatment of remembrance in this regard and the representation of memory in the work of Marcel Proust, noting that “reminiscences, especially those surrounding the imagery of domestic space, function in Sassoon’s autobiographical project in a Proust-like fashion, allowing him to plumb the depths of the self.”9 Indeed, like Proust, Sassoon details the intricacies of his own memory by structuring his work around lengthy mnemonic passages triggered by his encounters with phenomenological objects in the present. Throughout his magnum opus In Search of Lost Time, Proust zeroes in on domestic spaces as repositories of personal memory, and explores the potential for everyday, mundane experiences to activate a dense network of subjective mental associations. The most famous example of this in Proust’s novel, of course, occurs when the narrator dips a madeleine pastry in a cup of tea, conjuring recollections of his youth in Combray with his Aunt Léonie.
Like Proust’s prose, Sassoon’s postwar poetry is constructed around the fragmented and associative nature of memory. With some distance between himself and the war, Sassoon increasingly became consumed with the project of articulating the trauma and emotional stress he felt as a result of his time in the trenches. Repeatedly in his autobiographical poems, domestic spaces serve as an access point to long-buried memories, dreams, and fantasies. Sassoon foregrounds his subjectivity in recalling these past experiences. His compulsion to go back again and again to the theme of temporal return, coupled with the paradoxical sense of distance and immediacy that defined his approach to representing the past through his art, also bears comparison to the theoretical work of Henri Bergson – a thinker often identified as a significant precursor to Proust. For Bergson, no embodied subject can access their “pure” memory, as “a memory . . . only becomes actual by borrowing the body of some perception into which it slips.”10 Remembrances, therefore, seep into the perception of our everyday experiences, conjured up through external mnemonic triggers.
According to Bergson, memories are stored within the body as “a series of mechanisms wound up and ready with reactions to external stimuli.” However, because these memories are conjured in response to stimuli in the present, when we encounter them they are “profoundly different” from the events as they originally occurred, “always bent upon action, seated in the present and looking only to the future.”11 Bergson describes remembrance using the metaphor of light and darkness. Pure memory, as an expanse and undifferentiated stream, is stored in “darkness”; when it is conjured, the recollection moves toward the light. The “memory-image,” to borrow Bergson’s terminology, is conjured through a tension between the past in which it occurred and the present in which it is embedded; no matter how strong or intense our memories may seem to us, they are inevitably a combination of “pure” memory and perception. Our experience of memory, therefore, is a continuous process of conjuring memory-images through our exposure to external stimuli. Indeed, Proust recalls Bergson’s model of “pure memory” and its relationship to current perceptions when he writes of memories:
The moments of the past do not remain still; they retain in our memory the motion which drew them toward the future, toward a future which has itself become the past, and draw us on in their train.12
Sassoon’s 1936 poem “My Past Has Gone to Bed” articulates a Bergsonian/Proustian model of human memory as a vast archive of stored “pure” recollections that are only conjured through the sights and sounds we encounter in the present, and that are altered as they become embedded within perceptions. In this poem, Sassoon describes his trip to Weirleigh, the estate in which he spent his childhood years. The walls of the estate prompt Sassoon’s mind to wander back to his early youth, but instead of finding closure and solace, recollections spurred in him by the domestic space of his childhood only reinforce his sense that his identity has been irrevocably shattered by the war.
My past has gone to bed. Upstairs in clockless rooms
My past is fast asleep. But mindsight reillumes
Here in my ruminant head the days where dust lies deep.
Sleep-walkers empty-eyed come strangely down the stairs
These are my dead selves, – once proud, once passionate with
Once vehement with vows
As in Bergson’s description of every event from our past being stored deep in the psyche as “pure” memory, here Sassoon describes the memories of his youth being stored dormant in the “[u]pstairs,” “clockless” rooms. Through Sassoon’s physical immersion within this domestic space, mental images of the past are conjured, brought from the darkness into the light, to use Bergson’s analogy. Yet, recalling Bergson’s concept of the “memory-image,” Sassoon’s memories of his childhood are fundamentally reshaped as he encounters them at a later point in his life. Flashes of Sassoon’s childhood self seem to emerge from the rooms, descending the staircase, but the language Sassoon uses is steeped in melancholy, not nostalgia. These childhood versions of Sassoon are described as being “dead selves,” and are so alien to the older poet that they appear “empty-eyed” and “sleep-walk[ing].” These youthful selves are described as embodying the traits of vitality, optimism, and national pride – characteristics that the older Sassoon can no longer connect with. Looking back from the vantage point of the present, his idealism and his sense of hope crushed by his experience with the war, the thoughts of the child he once was now only fill him with sorrow and regret; a sense of longing for what has been irretrievably lost. Thus, what should be positive memories of childhood happiness become tainted with the poet’s knowledge of the horrors and the frustrations that he would endure in later life, thereby rendering the optimism radiated by his younger selves naive and foolish in retrospect. The use of language here creates a clear distinction between the “past” Sassoon – naive in his passion and certainty – and the elder, more contemplative Sassoon who can only look back with a combination of disdain for his previous credulity and a sense of longing for a period in which he could gain comfort from straightforward national myths. As he continues, these “ignorant selves” fade from view not long after the poet’s mind conjures their images; these memories are weak, fleeting, and ephemeral. As their images fade, Sassoon is reminded of the material fact of the current “self” who “sits brooding here/In the house where I was born.” He solemnly reflects that these hopeful selves could not “foresee” that they would one day transform into the regretful, pining presence that now sits in the rooms in which they once played.
Benediction: Bridging the Gap between Davies and Sassoon
The audience pricks an intellectual ear,
Stravinsky. . . Quite the concert of the year!
Forgetting now the hullaballoo they made,
The audience pricks an intellectual ear.
These words from Sassoon’s 1921 poem “Concert Interpretation” open Benediction. Davies’s camera pans down from the late evening sky to show the exterior of a grand theatre hosting a production of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring accompanied by Diaghilev’s Russian ballet. The on-screen text informs us that this is London, 1914. The downward drift of the camera halts as it reaches the main door of the establishment, at which point it starts to track slowly inward as crowds of spectators enter. Their bodies are bathed in shadow, rendering their identities indistinct. The orchestra begins to play, and Davies cuts to a frontal wide shot of the audience waiting inside the auditorium for the performance to begin. After a moment, Davies cuts to a medium-wide shot of two of the spectators: Sassoon and his younger brother, Hamo. At first, they are too engaged in idle chatter, but then the houselights fade and their attention is drawn to the stage. Davies cuts to a point-of-view shot from the perspective of the audience. The camera pans up from the orchestra conductor, positioned in the pit in front of the stage, to focus on a large red curtain. As the curtain is lifted, however, Davies does not show the stage, nor the musicians, nor the ballet performers. Rather, we see black-and-white archival footage of an oar propelling a boat across the calm surface of a lake. More archival shots follow: Londoners strolling through gardens, children guiding miniature boats across a pool, pleasure-seekers bathing by the water.
Over these images, the voice-over narration (delivered by Lowden as Sassoon) continues:
Bassoons begin . . . Sonority envelops
Our auditory innocence; and brings
To me, I must admit, some drift of things
Omnific, seminal, and adolescent.
In these opening few minutes, Davies establishes several of the themes that will be at the centre of his exploration of Sassoon’s life and poetry: the relationship between artistic experience and personal memory; the longing for an idealised period in life that, in retrospect, you realise was always illusory; the tension between personal and collective remembrances (Sassoon’s intimate memories of his childhood vs. the standardised historical documents of the archival footage); the relationship between the written word and the cinematic image. If this audiovisual passage seems to harken back to a golden era of Sassoon’s life, however, it is soon undercut by the intrusion of war. Archival images follow of conscription posters, young men dutifully walking into recruitment offices, and bureaucrats dispassionately filing the paperwork that will lead to the death of so many of these civilians. Sassoon’s voice-over now takes a morose turn: “And in small recruiting offices, dull young men wait to inscribe (in paper quires) the names of the living and the dead.” Diametrical clashes abound: images of reverie are counterposed with images of destruction; youthful innocence is contrasted with the sense of world-weary resignation suggested by Sassoon’s voice-over; the idyll of London’s gardens and parks are placed in dialogue with the squalor of the battlefield. Beauty and destruction, art and battle, innocence and experience, subjectivity and objectivity, idealism and cynicism. These are the tensions that lie at the core of Sassoon’s postwar poetry, and here Davies places them at the forefront of his intellectual montage.
The poem “Concert Interpretation” was inspired by Sassoon’s admiration for Stravinsky’s groundbreaking avant-garde concert, which the poet saw performed live. Davies uses passages from the poem selectively, but a section that he chose to omit reveals much about Sassoon’s affection for artistic innovation and aesthetic experimentation:
Forgetting now that none so distant date
When they (or folk facsimilar in state
Of mind) first heard with hisses – hoots – guffaws
This abstract Symphony; (they booed because
Stravinsky jumped their Wagner palisade
With modes that seemed cacophonous & queer)
Placing Sassoon’s poetry, Stravinsky’s music, and his own intellectual montage into dialogue establishes an affinity among these three artists who rebelled against classical techniques in the pursuit of radical, disjunctive new artistic textures and forms. Benediction wrestles with not just the life events of its subject, but also the way in which Sassoon reckoned with his troubling experiences through poetic verse; in so doing, Davies expands the possibilities of the biopic as a cinematic mode and experiments with the capacity for the language of film to visualise poetry.
The bulk of the film concerns two distinct periods of Sassoon’s life, which Davies alternates between liberally. The first is the years immediately following the first world war, as Sassoon finds himself adrift within a British society enjoying the spoils of an economic upturn. As presented by Davies, the England of the 1920s is characterised at once by a sense of confidence and optimism and a refusal to fully process the horrors inflicted on the world by that great tragedy. On returning to civilian life, Sassoon finds himself a hot property amongst London’s cultural elite and embarks on a string of short-lived affairs with fellow artists, including Ivor Novello (Jeremy Irvine), Glen Byam Shaw (Tom Blyth), and Stephen Tennant (Calam Lynch). Immersed in the upper echelon of British society, Sassoon is able to lead a life of material riches and relative comfort, an existence filled with fine dining, new technologies, expensive clothes, and heightened buying power. Sassoon, however, is incapable of buying into this wider sense of future-oriented optimism, due to the lingering psychological wounds of the traumatic events he lived through, his repulsion at the ease with which his fellow countrymen seemed to forget the horrors of the Great War, and the antagonism expressed toward his sexual orientation by the British state. The superficial sense of optimism in British society across these scenes is also complicated by our awareness of the impending rise of fascism across Europe that would result in another war of mass-scale violence and atrocity – implicit in the film is the idea that the eagerness of individuals in the West to forget the war, rather than substantially grappling with its causes and effects, resulted in them turning a blind eye to the severity of this rise.
The second period is the late 1960s, in which an elderly Sassoon (Peter Capaldi) appears embittered and regretful, distanced from his wife Hester (played as a young woman by Kate Phillips and in her later years by Gemma Jones) and son George (Richard Goulding), disappointed that his poetry failed to gain the accolades he desired within his lifetime, and, again, alienated from an amnesiac society immersed in frivolous commercial pleasures (in one of these scenes, Sassoon aggressively lambasts George for polluting his ears with mass-produced pop music). Davies’s strategy of cutting between these moments in Sassoon’s life without clear temporal markers articulates Sassoon’s continued inability to overcome his searing psychological trauma. As Richard Brody perceptively writes in The New Yorker: “Throughout the movie, the war is an open wound in Sassoon’s mind, and, as he advances in age and the world moves on, the wound torments him ever more.”13 As Sassoon repeatedly expressed in his verse, the many ideals he was raised to believe in wholeheartedly as the son of British aristocrats (patriotism, military valour, duty, and the essential benevolence of the British state) were shattered during his active service. The film depicts Sassoon’s painful attempts to reconstruct a whole and coherent identity all of which ultimately fail to provide him with the solace he longed for. It is not the case that Sassoon, as presented in the film, wants to return to some imagined pre-war utopia, nor does he wish to reclaim an idealised pre-war masculinity, but that in the wake of the psychic shock of the war – and the destruction of the ideals he once placed faith in – he emerges a psychologically damaged man who struggles to come to terms with the corruption and mendaciousness of the British state and a population indifferent to state atrocities. Throughout the film, Sassoon makes several ill-judged attempts to find solace, but all these attempts only leave him feeling more alone and alienated from others: his affairs with a string of celebrated men; his attempt to forge a conventional nuclear family through marriage and fatherhood; his conversion to Catholicism.
The continuity between the younger Sassoon, incapable of finding redemption through relationships, and the elder Sassoon, incapable of finding redemption through conversion, is exemplified in a series of images that occurs early in the film. He is first seen discarding his Military Cross by throwing it into a body of water. The significance of this moment is indicated by Davies’s use of slow-motion; the cross appears in sharp focus, at the centre of the screen, gradually sinking from foreground to background, his name and rank inscribed on its surface. He is visible in the image behind the cross, reflected on the surface of the water. The undulations of the liquid obscure his visage, but we can clearly see that he is in full military uniform. The fact that Sassoon’s figure is obscured by the water signals that his previous identity of military general and English gentleman is being consciously rejected. This is intensified when the cross hits the water, creating a ripple effect which completely breaks apart his image. The image is taken over by smoke, and then Davies cuts to a series of archival images of soldiers being led to slaughter on the battlefield. The shots (which depict men marching into war, artillery fire, and corpses) are striking in their visceral impact.
Davies then dissolves to an image of the young Sassoon sitting in a pew at a Cathedral, framed from behind. The camera slowly rotates around him, and as it does so, the young man slowly morphs into his older incarnation. The aesthetic choice here maps the two temporal moments atop one another, signalling Sassoon’s emotional stasis as he continuously attempts – but fails – to get over the wounds of the war. Indeed, the subsequent conversation between the older Sassoon and his son George, about Sassoon’s upcoming conversion, illustrates that the redemption the younger Sassoon seems to be longing for has still not been found, decades later. It is notable that this scene of temporal slippage arrives immediately after the shot of him tossing his Military Cross into the water, as it is the fracturing of his previously held, high-minded view of Britain and its essential goodness that causes the crisis of identity that he is unable to mend. “Release me from the imprisonment of doubt,” the elder Sassoon pleads in voice-over, an indication that he is pursuing this path not because he truly believes in the power of religion, but because he is longing to find any way to expunge from his mind the painful truths that have been haunting him for years. The fact that Davies himself is a lapsed Catholic who has consistently wrestled with religion’s inability to provide him with a true sense of closure and security signals that this conversion will only increase his feelings of isolation and alienation. The fact that we know, early into the film, that Sassoon, in his old age, will go on to make a late, ill-advised conversion makes the scenes featuring a younger Sassoon register with a greater sense of melancholia.
A collage of fractured and shattered audiovisual fragments, Benediction expresses the subjectivity of events as they are recalled, rather than presenting them as they truly happened. Davies locates the storytelling of Benediction firmly within Sassoon’s viewpoint, creating moments of slippage between past and present and stylised re-creations to explore the way in which memories are embedded in perceptions, and how the conjuring of one recollection may lead directly to the retrieval of another through an associative logic.
Davies’s multifaceted exploration of memory is perfectly illustrated by a sequence that occurs midway into the film. Sassoon is first seen sitting in the living room of his mother’s apartment on a Christmas night, 1919. She has just retired to bed after the two have reflected on the death of Hamo. Davies lingers on Sassoon’s face in a medium close-up, his expression solemn as he loses himself in thought. Sassoon’s short poem “To My Brother” is read in its entirety through voice-over narration, as the camera rotates slowly around him. We see more of the living space as the camera glides around its subject: the Christmas tree, the lamps, and, most notably, a small table on which a circle of cameras sit around two photographs of Hamo. The source of the voice-over is unclear: it is uncertain whether this is supposed to be what Sassoon is thinking at this moment in his mother’s apartment, his trail of thought as he wrote the poem in 1918, or his reflection from some point in the distant future.
As the camera rotates around the back of Sassoon’s head, we see that a still image of a snowy battlefield has been superimposed on top of the front living room wall. The camera comes to a halt to frame Sassoon such that the back of his head is centred, and the battlefield now resolves to be clearer. A German rendition of “Silent Night” (originally recorded in 1914) overwhelms the soundtrack, and Davies dissolves to a series of static images of other parts of the snow-coated battlefield: burnt trees, dead bodies on stretchers, a crucifix covered in barbed wire. Following this short archival passage, Davies dissolves back to Sassoon in the living room, now, once again, framed in a frontal medium close-up. As “Silent Night” comes to a close, a single gunshot is heard, and Sassoon falls back violently. Davies cuts to an image of a war hospital – Sassoon’s body falls into the bed, the motion rhyming with the previous shot so that it appears that this is part of one, uninterrupted bodily gesture. The film does not clearly indicate that the following scene in the hospital takes place several years earlier; the spectator has to actively figure out that it dramatizes Sassoon’s recovery from a serious injury he suffered during combat in 1917.
These images are not organised according to any kind of cause-and-effect logic. The sequence combines fragments from several different time periods through a fluid logic of mnemonic association: the conversation with his mother conjures the poem, in which Sassoon worked through the feelings of his brother murdered on the battlefield; the poem conjures the reminisces of the battlefield in the snow; the juxtaposition of the snow and the battlefield conjures the song (with its connotations of the Christmas time truce of 1914), and the increasingly violent images of the battlefield then conjure the memory of the injury sustained by Sassoon. Significantly, Davies does not just show a series of events out of chronological order; the way they are linked together both temporally (jumping from 1919 to 1914 to 1917) and spatially (the superimposition of the battlefield into the domestic space) qualitatively alters the shape of each memory fragment so it no longer unfolds as it would have done in the moment of its original unfolding. For example, the gunshot which seems to pass both through Sassoon sitting on his mother’s sofa in 1919 and through Sassoon as he convalesces in his hospital bed in 1917 is not representative of a past event as it actually occurred; but the transition symbolically links the two distinct fragments through their shared relationship with war, trauma, and psychological pain.
Rather than constructing a sequence of dialogue- and character-driven scenes that chart the unfolding of linear events through classical models of tension and release, Davies privileges the compilation of emotionally potent images and symbols that express complex ideas, themes, emotions, and relationships in a radically condensed, emotionally potent form. Spatially and temporally discontinuous images are placed into rich constellations of sound and image – often in oblique ways – spurring the viewer to critically think about the relationship between them. The entire film can thus be interpreted as representing a succession of Sassoon’s memory-images, and because the wounds inflicted by the Great War held such a central place in his psyche decades after it ended, the film must continuously return to archival images of the battlefield.
In the section of the film, which depicts Sassoon’s stay at Craiglockhart, Davies transitions straight from a scene in which the poet discovers that fellow patient and fellow poet Wilfred Owen – with whom he has established a strong artistic, emotional, and romantic bond – is being sent to the front line with imminent effect with two quasi-abstract images that evoke the power of their connection: first, a graceful, glacial tracking shot across the net of an empty tennis pitch in the pouring rain. The image then fades to a bird’s-eye view of the two poets swimming together in a clear blue pool. The timing of the transition creates the illusion, at first, that the tennis net is a literal barrier between them: the interplay of visual elements with opposing emotional and thematic connotations (the tennis net as a symbol of play and of physical separation, water as a symbol of melancholy and of sensuality). These fragmented impressions articulate – more powerfully than a traditionally constructed dramatic scene could have – the paradoxical sense of intimacy and distance that defines the relationship between Sassoon and Owen, the exhilaration of the immediate moment complicated by both men’s awareness that the time they spend together will be cut short.
In the next scene, we see Sassoon bid farewell to Owen, who boards a military vehicle and recedes into the distance. Owen is never seen again in the film – his time on the battlefield takes place off-screen, and his death on November 1918, shortly before the armistice, is not depicted. Instead of taking us to the front line, Davies dissolves from this shot to an archival image, which puts a new spin on the motif of water: a black-and-white shot of a line of umbrellas, shielding pedestrians from the pouring rain. The full context of this image is not provided, but the atmosphere is unmistakably funereal. The death of Owen is elided, then, as though to directly look at it – or even imagine what it may have looked like – would be too painful for Sassoon to handle. Instead, the horror of this personal tragedy is communicated by the symbol of the umbrellas, a more distanced image of collective mourning.
“Rising, Rising, the Voices of the Muffled Dead”
In the scenes featuring the older Sassoon, it becomes painfully clear that the passage of time has not brought Sassoon positive growth, satisfaction, and reconciliation, but has only deepened his sense of isolation, frustration, and dissatisfaction. Sassoon is depicted as an embittered man consumed by regret, prone to extended periods of introspection, and obsessed with ruminating over past failures and missed opportunities. A sequence late in the film shows the older Sassoon acting coldly toward his wife, Hester, and his now-grown son, George. Sitting in the domestic space of the living room, Sassoon refuses to meet Hester’s gaze as she leaves on a trip to Scotland. She bids farewell to him, but he replies with hostility, snapping at her that she is distracting him from the radio broadcast he’s listening to and then telling her that he’d prefer if she didn’t contact him during her visit. When George arrives to pick up his mother, Sassoon doesn’t say a single word to him. When the two characters have left, Sassoon looks up at the door and a voice-over from an unidentified off-screen voice enters the audioscape: “Remember: marry at haste, repent at leisure.” Davies then cuts to an image of the young Sassoon walking through the church in which he plans to marry, discussing his intentions with a number of his close friends. Sassoon refuses to heed his friends’ warnings about succumbing to societal pressures and entering a heterosexual union to keep his true sexual identity a secret, instead expressing his hope that he can find some degree of fulfilment from a chaste union with Hester.
Soon afterward, Davies shows the newly married Sassoon and Hester as they slow-dance in their new home, accompanied by the song “Tea for Two” by Marion Harris. As the two characters embrace, the camera tracks in, past the pair, to focus on a mirror mounted high on the wall. We see the reflection of Sassoon and Hester’s dance for a few moments, the contours of the room morphing into an abstract background. Then the couple fade away, and in their place appears first an image of Sassoon dancing with Novello, and then an image of Sassoon dancing with Tennant. The sequence ends with the image of Sassoon and Tennant morphing into the older Sassoon and Hester. They appear awkward and morose as they dance, their movements stiff and awkward, as if making contact with one another’s bodies makes them both feel physically uncomfortable. They stop dancing and remove their arms from each other’s waists. Davies then fades to an image of the older Sassoon, standing behind a window. He is positioned in the left third of the screen, creating a large chunk of negative space to his right. The resulting image appears off-balanced, announcing Sassoon’s lack of true companionship. His visage is obscured, by both the bars on the window and the heavy rain that streams down the glass. Over this image, the poem “Invocation” is read by the younger Sassoon:
Come down from Heaven to meet me
when my breath
Chokes, and through drumming shafts
of stifling death
I stumble toward escape, to find
Opening on morn where I may breathe
On the right side of the screen, a series of portraits of various figures from Sassoon’s life appear, each one looking directly into the camera: Sassoon’s mother; Robbie Ross (Simon Russell Beale), Sassoon’s friend who pulled strings with the British government to save the poet from a court-martial; Dr Rivers; Owen. These four figures (all of whom were warm, nurturing, and positive influences in Sassoon’s development, and all of whom were deceased by this point in the poet’s life) appear translucent against the window, and each one only appears for a few seconds before fading away once again. As in the aforementioned poem, “My Past Has Gone to Bed,” the visages of figures from Sassoon’s past appear vibrant, but their presence in this sequence only heightens the scene’s sense of melancholia. When the rendition of the poem has ended, the older Sassoon’s voice narrates the simple line: “Rising, rising, the voices from the muffled dead.” Their voices are “muffled” in the sense that Sassoon’s memories of them are not completely solid and concrete. The use of superimpositions emphasises that they exist as ephemeral recollections of a past that seemed to offer a greater chance of positive social change and personal fulfilment. The decision to place these translucent portraits next to the older, visibly bedraggled Sassoon tempers the optimism radiated by these characters with the world-weariness and frustration exuded by the older Sassoon. The “voices of the muffled dead” visually conjured by Davies’s editing are framed as being the older Sassoon’s efforts to reach back into an ostensibly happier period of his life; but, as in the poem, no sense of catharsis or positive synthesis is achieved. Ultimately, they recede into the ether, and we are left with an image of Sassoon staring out of the window, visually isolated in the frame. Davies’s imagery, coupled with the phrase “voices of the muffled dead,” has connotations of both private trauma – the relationships that have slipped out of Sassoon’s life – and public trauma – the thousands horrifically murdered in combat.
Soon afterward, there is another impressionistic slippage between past and present, triggered through Sassoon’s navigation of domestic space. At the beginning of the sequence, we see the older Sassoon arguing with George over his choice of music in the hallway of his son’s house. The entire confrontation is filmed in a single shot: Sassoon is framed at the intersection between the doorway and the wall, yelling at George, who is upstairs (George doesn’t appear on-screen during this argument, but his muffled voice is heard coming from the upper floor). After this dialogue, Sassoon storms away from the spot, through an adjacent hallway, and through a doorway into a side room. Davies’s camera tracks right to follow Sassoon as he moves across the x-axis of the foreground and then remains in place as he walks toward the background. After Sassoon has vanished from view, the gaze of the camera lingers on the empty hallway for a moment, then the image dissolves to a rhyming one-point perspective shot of a train carriage, which is also empty. After a moment, the scene dissolves to a rhyming Davies holds on this shot for just a few seconds, and then dissolves to the same carriage, but now filled with WW1 soldiers in uniform. The soldiers appear jovial – they speak to each other casually and trade cigarettes. The scene fades to a still image of three young soldiers in a military hospital; each one has suffered a head injury not unlike the one that ended Sassoon’s military service. This still image is only on-screen for a few seconds, then Davies dissolves to a composite image: in the foreground, the older Sassoon sitting in a straw chair in the yard of George’s property; behind him, an archival documentary reel of young soldiers sitting by a body of water has been superimposed, such that it is slightly translucent and the garden space is faintly visible. The sound of a radio broadcast is heard on the audio track, featuring a host detailing a list of statistics relating to war fatalities across various European countries. As the broadcast continues, Davies cuts to more archival images: soldiers on horseback, a military funeral procession, the burial of the Unknown Soldier inside Westminster Abbey. This final archival image slowly fades back into the image of Sassoon sitting in the yard. His voice-over intones: “These are the statistics of catastrophe. Yet, from Prime to Compline, life goes slowly on.”
The symbol of the domestic hallway as a liminal space that links past and present, and represents an opportunity for return, which occurs so often in Sassoon’s poetry is here visually translated to the temporal and spatial qualities of cinema through Davies’s montage. Here, the first image of the soldiers in the train carriage is used to symbolise the sense of honour, companionship, and camaraderie that Sassoon first associated with the military on his enlistment (the shot echoes a fleeting image earlier in the film, in which Hamo is shown onboard a train filled with other young recruits, his head sticking out of the window as he offers a beaming smile to those on the tracks), while the following image of the wounded soldiers undercuts any sense of excitement by showing a visceral example of the violence and bloodshed inflicted on these soldiers during battle. One of the great sorrows of Sassoon’s life, as presented by the film, is that the psychic wound he endured was so severe that all his joyous memories have become fundamentally intertwined with memories of trauma.
In the film’s breathtaking final sequence, Sassoon walks slowly, wearily, through a park at dusk after attending an evening performance of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s musical Stop the World – I Want to Get Off. The scene is bathed in shadow, with only faint illumination provided by streetlights surrounding the path. Sassoon sits down on a park bench, and his gaze becomes fixed on an undetermined off-screen element. As in the earlier scene in which the young Sassoon visually morphs into his older self while sitting in church, here the older Sassoon visually transforms into the younger one – the location itself remains unchanged. The young Sassoon is similarly fixated on an on-screen element. Davies then cuts to an image of a young man in a wheelchair, who has had both legs amputated, sitting outside a military hospital. In keeping with the film’s tendency to destabilise spatial and temporal relations, it is unclear whether the image of the young amputee is a memory or a fantasy – furthermore, if this image is a memory, it is uncertain whether the older Sassoon is recalling an incident in which his younger self saw the amputee as he sat on the bench, or whether the film is depicting two incidents in which the younger and the older Sassoon were both consumed by the same recollection. Over the soundtrack, we hear the young Sassoon read Owen’s poem “Disabled” – mentioned during an earlier scene, but not recited until now:
He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.
As this poem continues, images appear of able-bodied young men and women strolling through a park, laughing and talking, playfully teasing and playing with one another. Again, it is unclear whether these images are recollections or mental imaginings spurred by Owen’s poem. The images dissolve back into the image of the disabled young man in the wheelchair, shivering in the cold. The poem mourns the tragic sacrifice made by this young recruit, made to serve in the military and then abandoned, in the cold, helpless, on his return to civilian life. The poem also delves into the themes of lost youth and fractured innocence:
About this time
Town used to swing
When glow-lamps budded in the light
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their
All of them touch him like some
The poet imagines the young disabled man reflecting mournfully on the time he spent before the war – the times before his psyche was irrevocably shattered by the immense violence he witnessed and was subjected to. The recital of this poem, coupled with the dual images of the young Sassoon and the older Sassoon, illustrates a continuum of longing and frustration, as Sassoon remained, up until his death, haunted by the wounds inflicted on his psyche by battle and tormented by the perpetuation of mass destruction in its past and contemporaneous manifestations. As this poem ends, Sassoon breaks into inconsolable tears: he weeps for the young amputee man he sees before him at Craiglockhart; for the thousands of people murdered in the great war; for the deceased Owen, whose poetry seems to prefigure the fatal injury he suffered not long after he wrote “Disabled”; he weeps for his lost innocence; for the many years he spent trying – and failing – to overcome the trauma of the trenches. So long as the memories of modern war perpetually return to the forefront of his consciousness, Sassoon’s experience will remain fractured. The joyous, naive childhood self that he periodically expresses a longing to recapture cannot be regained – all of his memories, including those of his pre-war years, have been tainted by his time in combat and the traumatic after-effects. The tragic irony is that the brilliance of Sassoon’s art is inextricably tied together with his traumatic experiences. He must bear the psychological brunt of having witnessed overwhelming acts of violence; he cannot bury the experience of war, nor does he want to; as much as it pains him to revisit these memories, it is absolutely necessary for those who experienced the horrors firsthand to retain these recollections and, what’s more, to communicate them to a public that can so often be mired in apathy and wilful blindness, in the hopes that he can prevent such bloodshed from being repeated. Although Sassoon was unable to prevent further loss of life in the pointless destruction of war within his own lifetime, the effort is valiant.
* * *
All images are screenshots from the film.
- Terence Davies quoted in Jordan Raup. (2022). “Terence Davies on Benediction, the Poetry of Cinema, and Life’s Regrets.” The Film Stage. Online. https://thefilmstage.com/terence-davies-on-benediction-the-poetry-of-cinema-and-lifes-regrets/. Accessed December 25, 2022. [↩]
- Martin Hunt (1999). “The Poetry of the Ordinary: Terence Davies and the Social Art Film.” Screen. 40:1. pp.1–16. [↩]
- Jonathan Rosenbaum. (1989). “License to Feel (Distant Voices, Still Lives).” JonathanRosenbaum.com. Online Resource. https://jonathanrosenbaum.net/2020/04/license-to-feel/. Accessed December 25, 2022. [↩]
- Terence Davies quoted in Peter Fraser. (2006). “Distant Voices, Still Lives: An interview with Terence Davies.” Close Up Film Centre. Online Resource. https://www.closeupfilmcentre.com/. Accessed December 25, 2022. [↩]
- Terence Davies quoted in Leonard Quart (2009). “Remembering Liverpool: An Interview with Terence Davies.” Cineaste. XXXIV:2. Online resource. https://www.cineaste.com/spring2009/terence-davies-interview. Accessed December 25, 2022. [↩]
- “The Making of Time and the City.” Of Time and the City, produced by Terence Davies, Sol Papadopoulos, Roy Boulter, Jim Anderson, John Taylor, BFI, 2008, DVD. [↩]
- Paul S Saks. (2007). “Aftermath: The Implicit Processes of Integrating Traumatic Experience in the Poetry of Siegfried Sassoon.” J Am Acad Psychoanal Dyn Psychiatry. 35(4). p. 593. [↩]
- Saks, “Aftermath.” [↩]
- Robert Hemmings. (2012). Modern Nostalgia: Siegfried Sassoon, Trauma, and the Second World War. Online. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Scholarship Online. [↩]
- Henri Bergson. (2004) . Matter and Memory. Edited and translated by Nancy Margaret Paul & W. Scott Palmer, New York: Dover. p. 72. [↩]
- Bergson. Matter and Memory, pp. 92–93. [↩]
- Marcel Proust. (2003). . In Search of Lost Time. Edited and translated by John Sturrock. London: Penguin. p. 159. [↩]
- Richard Brody. “Benediction,” reviewed: The Bio-Pic as Radical Melodrama.” The New Yorker. Online. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/benediction-reviewed-the-bio-pic-as-radical-melodrama [↩]