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Johannes Vermeer (#110 of 2)

A Lover’s Discourse: Terence Davies’s Films

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A Lover’s Discourse: Terence Davies’s Films
A Lover’s Discourse: Terence Davies’s Films

In a dark room, two women regard each other, the older one cloaked in shadow, the younger one better lit but turned away. The older is caring for her sick husband, wrapped up in bed sheets, while the younger thinks of killing herself due to the pangs of lost, despised love. “Sometimes it’s tough to judge when you’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea,” she says, a little bent over, to which her staunch, stiff counterpart snaps back: “A lot of rubbish is talked about love. You know what real love is? It’s wiping someone’s ass, or changing the sheets when they’ve wet themselves, and letting ’em keep their dignity so you can both go on. Suicide? No one’s worth it.”

The moment comes late in Terence Davies’s new film, The Deep Blue Sea, which opens theatrically tomorrow, and a sneak preview of which began the BAMcinématek’s retrospective of the British director’s nine-film career (next week, Film Forum will screen a new 35mm print of 1992’s gently gliding The Long Day Closes). This Deep Blue Sea scene, coming late into the story of a London woman struggling to move on post-WWII and post-love, in some ways sets the tone for all of Davies’s work.

Poster Lab: We Need to Talk About Kevin

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Poster Lab: <em>We Need to Talk About Kevin</em>
Poster Lab: <em>We Need to Talk About Kevin</em>

The promotion of Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin has been all over the map, not just in the sense that at least four studios are handling portions of the film’s international release (Oscilloscope is distributing stateside), but also in terms of the wide, eclectic range of posters that’s trickled out over the last several months. An eccentric vision of a Columbine-esque story about a mother straining to understand her son before and after he massacres his high school peers, the movie isn’t the easiest to market, and the posters confirm as much, suggesting that a whole host of designers took cracks at conveying themes of intense angst and maternal turmoil. The variations have included a ghostly black and white expression of the mother as abandoned conscience, a sepia-toned image of mother and son when rebellion takes root, a garish green and purple quad that’s all hard-rock-blaring-in-the-bedroom rage, and a typical union of headshots and generic text.

The most successful poster is one that communicates a kind of gorgeous misery, which, given Ramsay’s presumed approach, also makes it the most appropriate. Whereas the prior images opted for varying degrees of horror, this rain-pelted one sheet gently highlights humbling devastation, and rather than eclipsing the mother, vividly isolates her and ushers her to the forefront. A single, deeply impactful tear is the poster’s focal point, its long trail on Tilda Swinton’s cheek beautifully and subtly differentiating it from the surrounding raindrops. It’s a bit of private torment amid an unforgiving deluge, and that it’s such a quiet, near-anonymous gesture is a pity in itself. Seemingly simple, the whole water effect does wonders for the poster’s overall look. Aside from ably emphasizing gloom, the play on the droplets imprisons Swinton’s character in what must indeed feel like a haze of filtered reality, with the world seen through a foggy, speckled lens of unanswered questions. Most brilliantly, the drops create a certain cracked quality that elevates the design to the level of high, Renaissance-style art, as if Swinton were a long lost model for Vermeer.