A Liverpool-born director described as one of Britain’s greatest living film-makers was today made an Honorary Doctor of Literature at Edge Hill University.
Terence Davies, who is a Fellow of the British Film Institute and whose films have been nominated for awards at all the major international film festivals, was presented with his latest accolade by Edge Hill’s Chancellor Professor Tanya Byron.
Quoting poet Emily Dickinson, Terrence gave some words of advice to Edge Hill’s graduands in the faculty of Arts and Science this afternoon.
He said: “For each ecstatic instant, we must an anguish pay in keen and quivering ratio to the ecstasy. This means for every minute on the red carpet, think 10 years of hard work. For one rapturous review you can get 10 that are really vicious.
“From the moment you begin with an idea and sit down with a pad and a pen to the end of the film, when it’s in its final form, is one of the most gruelling, one of the least satisfying things that you can go through. But you get to the end, you see the show print and you think “This is what real joy is” Would I do anything else? “You bet I wouldn’t.”
Terrence’s first three films (two of which he wrote and directed while still studying at Coventry School of Drama and the National Film School), Children, Madonna and Child and Death and Transfiguration comprise The Terence Davies Trilogy, which put him on the cinematic map as one of the most original British film-makers of the late 20th century.
In the Trilogy and the two films that followed, Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) and The Long Day Closes (1992), Davies cinematically recreates his childhood and youth in the Liverpool of the 1940s and 50s.
The House of Mirth (2000) marked Davies’ furthest departure from his childhood obsessions. Based on a novel by Edith Wharton set in America at the beginning of 20th century, the main theme explores the struggle of an individual with a culture.
The film Of Time and The City, from 2007/08 and produced by Liverpool’s Hurricane Films, reflected Davies’s growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s and 1960s, using newsreel and documentary footage supplemented by his own commentary voiceover and contemporaneous and classical music soundtracks. Of Time and The City was unveiled at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival to great critical acclaim.
Terrence added: There are two things that are important to us, not just people in the arts, but to us all. The first is passion. Never lose your passion. But more importantly, never lose your sense of humour. As soon as you start taking yourself and the world seriously, that the shortest route to disaster. I speak from bitter experience.”