Of Time and the City
I’ve a few spare minutes, so I’m going to do something I’ve often meant to – namely, to put finger to keyboard, and type a few words about Terence Davies’s film Of Time and the City. I saw the end of it on the television a few years ago, and it was so compelling that I had to find out what I’d just been watching and get hold of a copy as quickly as I possibly could.
Having grown up near to Liverpool, it had always been for me a place of near dread. The city has been transformed almost out of all recognition in recent decades, and this moving film documents that transformation from a city of slums to ‘city of culture’ almost perfectly. I think Davies may still have reservations, though. I sense much nostalgia in the film (as we all do, of course, for our childhoods), and the modern people are not always portrayed in a sympathetic manner.
The bits I least enjoy, it has to be said, are what I’d call the ‘biographical’ bits. Davies talks quite a lot about himself, and in spite of his complaining, compared to some of the poor souls in his film, I suspect he has been quite fortunate. There are interviews which are genuinely distressing.
Set against that, though, are moments that are almost ecstatic. The closing sequences are accompanied by Mahler’s sublime Resurrection Symphony (I think it’s a performance conducted by Leonard Bernstein) and the images of the run-down estates and the people who seem to be trapped there are made to seem at one moment dark and brooding, and at another inspired and heroic. I can’t think of another piece of music that could do it so well, and combination seems to me to be a work of genius.
Anyway, I’ve said as much as I can say. I don’t often write about such things, and the fact that I have attempted to do so is simply an indication of my own personal love of the film. I would urge anyone to see it.