From its golden sun-dipped wheat fields, wood-walled enclosures, and stone laid exteriors surrounded by green gardens and beautiful forests, Terence Davies film Sunset Song, based on a famous Scottish novel, evokes a longing, a warming nostalgia, and a terrifying remembrance of time and place none of us have ever experienced in our lives, yet can feel deeply. That is really the underlying power of any great filmmaker. His ability to bring forth emotions and connections for something we have never truly known, yet, begin to understand and empathize with so deeply, on a purely human level. When Chris Guthrie the main character and daughter of the family, sits by her bedside consoling her older brother’s red bleeding marks from father’s belt beatings we can all recall the vile wrongdoings of certain family members and the kindheartedness of those closest to our hearts. When Ewan gets drafted into the war, we can remember the parting of someone we cared about and the fear of never seeing them again. When Chris folds her belongings in paper and as she notes they are memories “laid to rest forever”, we all remember the moments when we changed as people. These are hard moments, they are memories and times which make us reflect with deep difficulty because they are things we would rather forget.
It’s hard to even call the film merely a romantic period-piece because it doesn’t dwell much on its setting or its time-period as a major factor for the relationships of its characters. Yes, there is a war, and its clear its the Scottish country-side, but people can experience what Chris Guthrie goes through in almost any time period. Enduring the abusive relationship with her domineering father, the death of her mother, falling in love, having her loved one changed from the inside-out by war. Davies turns Sunset Song into more a film of human emotion transcending time and place, but the pre-war Scottish countryside adds the nostalgia by channeling a near fairy-tale like setting, but bombarding it with a devastating story filled with every bit of the harshness of real life, but also the warmth.