The lighting in The Long Day Closes (1992) is nothing short of brilliance. For it alone, this film is well worth seeing — a must for any avid cinephile. The specific high key lighting, both off and on screen — flashlights, lampposts, etc. — lends itself to an effervescent aura of blues and greens, that are neither here nor there but constantly moving, based on the movement of light. This causes an ethereal rhythm to the poetic images; slow scenes of the night sky, rain, and wooden homes allow the viewer to ostensibly feel the Liverpool setting. This is Davies’ intention, for you to experience his memories.
The story tells of Davies’ childhood. In a changing Liverpool, a young boy, Bud (Leigh McCormack), grows up with mild-poverty, a supportive — loving — family, and cinema as his best friend. Davies seamlessly weaves together memories from his childhood, memories which may not be perfectly linear. Though all encompassing the same time frame, each scene is truncated, and does not necessarily follow the last or precede the next. It is a little like Tree Of Life (Malick, 2011) in this regard, except The Long Day Closes is unidirectional, literally focusing on the one boy at this one point in his life.
In effect, the framing of the scenes speak to feelings of memory, nostalgia, and sentiment. One begins to simultaneously reflect on one’s own childhood, and relate with Bud based on this — not necessarily relating the events of one’s childhood, but the spirit of it. The film is highly sentimental, and abounds in spirit — pride and honour. Though in dire times, the families hold it together, take care of one another, and find joy in their lives. This joy, connected with the joys of freedom akin to childhood, is imparted to the audience. Davies’ images probe one’s senses to also feel nostalgic — nostalgic for a one’s own past, nostalgic for his childhood, and nostalgic for his city.
Almost every dialogue is driven by comedy, and, though there are some funny moments, I found most of it rather awkward and undignified. Anyways, the stupid jokes, told with glee, express the joy I mention. These silly little remarks are a part of how they communicate, a form that keeps things light and civil. That said, I found the comedy a bit distracting; it took away from the beauty of certain images.
The music does a similar thing. There is almost always music accompanying the images and it doesn’t always fit. The lack of music, during certain scenes, is quite powerful in that Davies opted not to use music for them. Also, during slow, peaceful scenes, the classical/operatic music is quite a bit more powerful than the uptempo pop or diegetically sung ballads which fill the film.
The soundtrack, all in all, is rather hit or miss. While there are disjunctive and distracting moments, there are also moments of great synergy, such as the ending, when sound and image form a single artistic punctuation, expressing a profound feeling of solemnity over one’s past. The bright shining moon and prismatic emergence of the electromagnetic spectrum (see image above) spectacularly close out both the long day and the film itself.
PS: I also saw Davies’ documentary-film Of Time And The City. I’m not going to write a review on it, but, because of its relevance, I should at least comment here. It made the perfect double bill to go with The Long Day Closes, in that it documents the transformation of his birthplace, Liverpool. What was once a quaint small-town has now become a big-city, boasting the emergence of skyscrapers, clubs, and populousness. Davies’ grieves over the loss of his once home, stating that, upon his return, his home was alien to him. The same could be said of any city, as the Times, They Are A Changin’.