Terence Davies’ feature documentary Of Time and the City is a deeply personal cinematic homage to Liverpool, his city of birth. In a series of astute observations, the majority of the film consists of archival footage over which Davies passionately meditates on the grandeur and decline of the city in the post-war years. As much as Davies has a profound personal connection with Liverpool, it quickly becomes apparent that he is also scarred by his upbringing. In one of the film’s few modern day shots Davies revisits the parish church of his childhood, the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church on Hall Lane. As the camera slowly pans parallel to the pews, Davies recalls: ‘Here I wept, wept and prayed until my knees bled … but no succour came, no peace granted.’ In reference to his pleas for forgiveness in front of God, the camera zooms in on a representation of Jesus Christ on display inside the church. Davies adds: ‘You who damn but give no comfort. Why do I plead? Why do you not respond?’ This key scene, which effectively questions, dismantles, even ridicules the iconography of the church, must be analysed in conjunction with the footage that immediately precedes it; going to watch the wrestling at Liverpool Stadium as an adolescent, Davies alludes to his homoerotic desires by watching the match ‘not for its pantomimic villainy, but for something more illicit’. The scene ultimately reveals the fact that Davies could not reconcile his Catholic upbringing with his sexuality.
Originally published in World Film Locations: Liverpool.