Terence Davies’ new film Deep Blue Sea is deep, blue and something you should see!
Not to be confused with LL Cool J’s film about killer sharks, Davies’ Deep Blue Sea is based on the Terence Rattigan play, set in post-war England, following a day in the life of Hester (Rachel Weisz). Seeking happiness and fulfilment, Hester leaves her older, barrister husband for a former RAF pilot. This love triangle explores how each individual pursues what they think they need, and how they each react to their inability to acquire it, which makes for a solid character drama.
Comparable to the work of Tennessee Williams, the tension builds slowly in Deep Blue Sea, like watching an explosion in slow motion. The philosophical dialogue exposes the film’s theatrical origins and the banter is much cleverer than what you’re used to seeing on a Friday night at the movies. Davies directs an impeccable, purposeful piece ideal for viewers who have grown disillusioned with the formulaic explosions surrounding the boy meets girl car chase during a New Year’s Eve ensemble cast of vampires. Definitely check this flick out on a rainy, contemplative afternoon.
i-D sat down with Davies to discuss the making of Deep Blue Sea and all the films he can’t live without.
A lot of your films are period pieces, is there something about the past that you find particularly captivating? Probably I’m trapped in the past. I would love to make a modern film but I don’t know if that will ever happen. I wrote a modern comedy set in the fashion business and I couldn’t get any money for it at all, but I know that period because I grew up then and it does have a pull, a very big emotional pull.
What did you think was the effect of the fragmented narrative in Deep Blue Sea? The play is actually linear. Most of the first act is exposition, which I knew i had to get rid of. It’s just people telling you what happened! If you can show it, it’s much more powerful and it has to be from Hester’s point of view. We don’t know this until she’s woken up and she drifts in and out of memories of how she got there and that seems much more interesting because that’s what people do. Either in an emotional or happy state, you remember other things by association and those things are non-linear. Memory is non-linear; it’s cyclical. I’m not breaking any new ground at all.
What attracted you to the story? I grew up with what were called “women’s pictures” where the main character was a woman, like Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing. It then went out of fashion the late 50s, but I grew up with those films. I’m the youngest of seven and was taken to see those films with my sisters. I just felt an affinity with Hester and I cared for her. I identified with her because she falls in love and is willing to risk everything. That’s immensely courageous.
Does writing the films you make affect how you direct? Inevitably it does, but you have to be open to change. The only time you really see the film perfectly is in your head because it looks exactly the way you want it. It changes once you shoot and I never look at the script after that. Once it’s shot you’ve got to find the film in the shot footage. There was one scene with Mr. Elton originally he was supposed to fall about out of bed and it didn’t work. I remember thinking ‘oh god I can’t find a frame,’ and I was getting worried because I can very rarely not find a frame. The script supervisor gave me a wonderful piece of advice. She said, “Is the action true,” and I said you’re right he should just lie in the bed. Then I had the frame. Wonderful piece of advice.
Who is your favourite filmmaker? Oh there isn’t a favourite filmmaker. I have certain films by certain directors that I treasure. The Night of the Hunter, I think is one of the greatest films ever made. I couldn’t live without Letter from an Unknown Woman or Kind Hearts and Coronets. I couldn’t live without Singing in the Rain, Meet Me In St Louis, and Hitchcock’s Pyscho, which is his masterpiece. I can’t honestly say there’s a director that I love all the way, just one or two films by people that I simply couldn’t live without.
What was the biggest challenge shooting Deep Blue Sea? Doing it on 2.5 million in 25 days.
What’s your filmmaking process like? For me it’s always magic. Something happens when you put a lens on and you look down it. I cannot explain it, but it sends a shiver through me when it’s right. I’m appalled when it isn’t. There’s nothing like that being really, really moved by a performance that is deeply felt and it’s very hard sometimes not to weep because one is so moved. It’s the magic of it. It’s the fact that all these people come together and we film something. We make a story, isn’t that magical? And it’s 100 people it’s like conducting a symphony orchestra. It becomes one instrument and the biggest complement I was given, the film it’s like a single breathed moment.
What’s next for you? Oh god knows! I’ve got three films that I want to be funded, but whether anyone will ever fund them god alone knows, so keep your fingers crossed.
Deep Blue Sea is released in UK cinemas on 25th November.
Text: Lily Avnet