There is a famous passage in Romanian-born but French-exiled writer Emil Cioran’s A Short History of Decay (1949) called ‘The Sundays of Life’ wherein the notoriously grumpy philosopher wonders what would happen if “the universe transformed into a Sunday afternoon”. He imagines the violence that would inevitably result from this “very definition of ennui” since most people don’t know what to do with themselves when not given something to do.
In his symphonic film memoir Of Time and the City (2008) Terence Davies recalls his childhood “as if one’s entire world was one, long Sunday afternoon. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go.” Back when people seem to have had more time on their hands. I do not like nostalgia, unless it is Terence Davies’.
Passing Time, the short film Davies made together with Uruguayan composer Florencia Di Concilio, seems like a rebuttal of those Sundays from his childhood. In the single shot of bucolic fields in Essex, nothing happens except everything happens. The universe unfolds. The time Davies has accumulated since being a working-class boy in the Liverpool of the fifties and sixties, has made the immobility of a Sunday afternoon bearable. It takes a lifetime to become a young artist.
The poem he reads over this image—his words dancing along to Di Concilio’s rustic orchestration—talks about a place called silence where no one can accompany us, yet it seems we all must go. That place is of course death, the ultimate silence. But for now, we are here, amidst the chirping of the birds. Death and all those who have gone there before us, can wait a little while longer. For now, the universe is unfolding as if for our eyes only—if only we knew how to see it—on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.