Distant Voices, Still Lives; The Long Day Closes; the documentary Of Time And The City - the films of Terence Davies are precise and formal, moving slowly through layers of class resentment and emotional upheaval to reach piercing notes of truth.
His latest, The Deep Blue Sea, is no different, focusing on three characters struggling to find happiness - or at least peace - in postwar London. Over the phone from his office in London, Davies was happy to discuss cinema, memory and the problem with the British film industry.
Your films go beyond just being atmospheric; you capture the texture of the era in a way few other directors ever have.
I just remember what the 50s were like. Not just what they looked like, but what they felt like. You know, Britain was bankrupt at the end of the war, and everything was shabby, so the colour palette was very narrow. But within that, it could seem rich to a child. It just felt rich to me: light falling on a carpet, you know, firelight lighting a room, making the furniture - which was very, very modest indeed - seem rich.
It's almost as though you can see the air trapped in the rooms with the characters.
That's a very great compliment! Thank you! [laughing]
I suppose your films are always about recreating a vanished era.
But that's what cinema did for me. When I saw films, I thought, "That was real, what was on the screen was absolutely real." Even if they were, you know, those terrible Biblical epics like The Robe. [laughing]
The Deep Blue Sea feels like it could have been playing down the street at the pictures right around the same time.
When I was growing up, it was the end of the era for women's pictures - something like All That Heaven Allows. Jane Wyman's in that house, completely alone; all the surfaces are brilliant and reflective, but it feels like a prison. You know, a very well-upholstered prison, but a prison nonetheless. And that's in just a matter of one or two shots. You can see it. It's palpable. And these were very big commercial movies; they were done with real craft, and a real sense of drama, and the mise-en-scène can make you feel the emotions of the characters.
This is your first feature since The House Of Mirth in 2000. Did you find it easy to get back into the swing of things?
It's always difficult if you're not in the mainstream and not prepared to keep putting in the same people who are in every single bloody British film for the last 20 years... It's just so boring. It's so boring. My attitude is, you give the roles to the people who are right [for them] regardless of whether they are names or not. But that doesn't make it easy to get films off the ground. [laughing]