Terence Davies’ last film, The Deep Blue Sea, was a dark drama set in repressive postwar Britain. His latest, meanwhile, slips back a generation to the eve of the First World War where he finds more tragedy in an equally repressive environment.
Sunset Song, based on a novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, takes place in a remote farming community in Scotland, where a series of tragedies blight the lives of teenage Chris (Agyness Deyn) and her stern father (Peter Mullen). Davies delivers on lavish cinematography, panning across fields and tracking motes of dust through sunlit rooms, but never deviates from the cold-eyed realism of Gibbon’s story.
“There are lovely things in this world, lovely that do not endure and the lovelier for that,” says Chris at one point. As beautiful as it is to watch, there are some sequences as severe and disconcerting as anything by Michael Haneke.