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Distant Voices, Still Lives [1988] [DVD]

Freda Dowie , Pete Postlethwaite , Terence Davies    Suitable for 12 years and over   DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
Price: 8.26 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Distant Voices, Still Lives [1988] [DVD] + The Long Day Closes [1992] [DVD] + Of Time and the City [DVD] [2008]
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Product details

  • Actors: Freda Dowie, Pete Postlethwaite, Angela Walsh, Dean Williams, Lorraine Ashbourne
  • Directors: Terence Davies
  • Format: PAL, Anamorphic, Widescreen, Colour, HiFi Sound
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: Bfi Video
  • DVD Release Date: 30 July 2007
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,618 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

A film by Terence Davies

Winner of the International Critics' Prize, Cannes 1988.

Terence Davies's stunning debut feature film Distant Voices, Still Lives was instantly recognised as a masterpiece on its release in 1988 and the director hailed as one of Britain's most gifted and remarkable filmmakers. Re-released in April 2007 as part of a complete retrospective season of Terence Davies's films at BFI Southbank, it was once again showered with critical acclaim.

The BFI now makes the film available on DVD for the first time, presented in a beautiful new digital restoration - a fitting showcase for this unforgettable film from one of contemporary cinema's true poets.

Drawn from his own family memories, Distant Voices, Still Lives is a strikingly intimate portrait of working class life in 1940s and 1950s Liverpool. Focusing on the real-life experiences of his mother, sisters and brother whose lives are thwarted by their brutal, sadistic father (a chilling performance by Pete Postlethwaite), the film shows us beauty and terror in equal measure. Davies uses the traditional family gatherings of births, marriages and deaths to paint a lyrical portrait of family life - of love, grief, and the highs and lows of being human, a 'poetry of the everyday' that is at once deeply autobiographical and universally resonant.

Extra Features:

  • Feature commentary by director Terence Davies
  • Filmed interview with Terence Davies
  • Filmed introduction with Art Director Miki van Zwanenberg
  • Original trailer
  • Fully illustrated booklet

UK | 1988 | colour | Optional hard-of-hearing subtitles | 80 minutes | 1.78:1 (16x9 anamorphic) | Region 2 DVD


'It's a heartbreaking work. Its cast is phenomenal; its songs flow through the film like blood...A masterpiece.' --Time Out

'I defy anyone not to cry. Humane, haunting and utterly unmissable.' --Metro

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The way we were 29 Feb 2008
By G. E. Harrison TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I grew up in a working-class family in a terraced house in Merseyside in the 1950s and for me this film is a very evocative and poignant reminder of those days. It's the small details that bring a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye - the mother sat on the window ledge to clean the sash windows, the Billy Cotton Band Show on the radio, the cinema thick with cigarette smoke - details of a recent past that is now as confined to history as the Crusaders or Roundheads and Cavaliers. Indeed I think the comparisons with the films of Powell and Pressburger are well judged, Terence Davies also presents a vanished world, albeit a slightly less distant one.

From the opening scene we are given the pace of the film (slow and lingering) and we rightly sense that this isn't going to be a linear narrative. The film is shot with a restricted colour pallet, like the hand-coloured photographs popular at the time, to perfectly represent life faded and worn with the passage of time. In many ways the film looks more authentic than the black-and-white kitchen-sink films made in the 1950/60s.

Peter Postlethwaite is wonderful as the father who terrorises the family and even after his death is still a brooding presence, staring down from his photograph on the front room wall. Postlethwaite's face is straight out of the 1940's, flesh stretched taught over the bones of his skull by hard work and rationing. Indeed the whole cast, including Freda Dowie as the wife, is excellent. (Debi Jones as Eileen's friend Micky looks so period that I find it hard to believe she hasn't been spliced into the film from 1940's film clips, as in 'Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid'.
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77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best films ever made 28 July 2007
I have waited fifteen years for this masterful film to come out on DVD, and now, finally, thanks to the wonderful work of the British Film Institute, it has.

I first came across "Distant Voices, Still Lives" when it was shown on Channel Four television in the early '90s. I decided not to watch it - I was only in my early teens at the time - but my parents did, and I occasionally found myself glancing at the television screen to see what it was like. It did not look like a "normal" film. There was something strange, and deeply haunting about its tableau-style images, and its use of music. I put it out of my mind until, a few years later, there was a South Bank Show devoted to the work of its director, Terence Davies, on the eve of the release of his new film "The Long Day Closes". Clips from both films were shown, and I was simply amazed by the beauty of their camerawork and cinematography. Even though I did not know what either film was actually about, I knew that their images would stay with me forever.

Eventually, I managed to watch both films, and they quickly became my favourites. "Distant Voices, Still Lives" is the more sombre and brutal of the two. It is a diptych: the first film, "Distant Voices", was made in 1986, and through a series of impressionistic moments puts us right inside the memories of a family, as they recollect their experiences of their terrifyingly violent father. "Still Lives" was made two years later (but you can't see the join), and puts us inside the same family's memories of the period immediately following their father's death. Two central themes stand out. The first is a portrait of a close-knit, somewhat stifling community, which is at once deeply fond and somewhat critical.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I haven't seen Terence Davies's other films but this is undoubtedly a great achievement - and one which, seen again after a gap of fifteen years, feels even more poignant. It may seem odd to say it of a piece so rooted in the specifics of a certain time and place but this autobiographical film also feels like it's the story of Everyfamily.

This may be partly down to the device which helps give shape to the non-linear narrative, namely that the film is threaded around major events - weddings, funerals, Christmas - so we often see the family either in the process of having a commemorative photograph taken or frozen as if doing so.

And given that our memories have a tendency to simplify events over time, the complexity of the experience dwindling down into the information contained in the tangible souvenir of a photograph ("smaller and clearer as the years go by", as Philip Larkin put it), it's as though Davies has deliberately reversed this process in order to defy time's usual softening effects: here is that frozen moment we thought familiar from the snapshot; now the half-forgotten, half reinvented events behind it spring up, vivid and painful again.

But while there is pain in this film's account of the tyrannous father who rules the house, there is joy and magic as well, as we see the family, and the downtrodden mother in particular, gradually recover after his death in the second part. It's also worth saying that Distant Voices, Still Lives is an art movie, but an art movie without that term's negative connotations: there is never, when watching, any sense of frustration at the non-linear narrative.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 14 days ago by molly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
All good, product and delivery great. Thanks
Published 1 month ago by S Campbell
3.0 out of 5 stars Something different
Beautifully filmed, caught the last 10 minutes on television and thought I must add that to the collection. Very poignant and funny at times, very Scouse.
Published 8 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be seen on tv more often
This beautiful film represents the real quality of British cinema at its best. Honest well crafted art with no reliance on the brashness from the American imitations that seem to... Read more
Published 10 months ago by David Wakeling
5.0 out of 5 stars Distant Voices, Still Lives
I enjoyed viewing this after a gap of many years. I had forgotten about this story and will watch again.
Published 13 months ago by stewart10
5.0 out of 5 stars Distant Voices Still Lives
I have been keen to obtain a copy of this 1988 film since I first saw it in 1988.

It is a remarkable piece and much superior to its sequel, The Long Day Closes. Read more
Published 13 months ago by peter benthom
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth watching but not outstanding
In many respects quite an engaging film which shows how much, through small incremental changes, our lives have been transformed over the decades so that the past seems like... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mike K
5.0 out of 5 stars Terence Davies's masterful achievement
Stunning, ambiguous exploration of working class experience. Visually impressive. with some striking chiaroscuro effects - worthy of Joseph Wright of Derby and Caravaggio. Read more
Published 13 months ago by sporus
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching to degrees familiar
I am a great admirer of the work of Terence Davies and the way he encapsulates the mood of this film by use of appropiate characters is truly amazing. Read more
Published 20 months ago by mersey26
5.0 out of 5 stars Artistic, Poetic, Poignant, Evocative
Liverpool-born director Terence Davies' 1988 autobiographical film Distant Voices, Still Lives is a superbly evocative homage to his home city, set around the time of (and... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Keith M
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