Benediction: Directed by Terence Davies

Inspired by the life of WWI-era British poet Siegfried Sassoon, the latest film from writer-director Terence Davies explores redemption, regret, privilege, and love set in a time before homosexuality was legalized in the U.K.
Like many of Davies’ films, Benediction examines the lingering trauma of war on every aspect of life.
Although a decorated officer for his bravery on the Western Front, Sassoon was an outspoken critic of his government’s WWI policies, having seen the senseless slaughter during his time in the trenches.

Sassoon’s poetry described the horrors of trench warfare while also satirizing those who perpetuated the ideology that perpetuated the war. His dissent eventually landed him a stint in military psychiatric hospital where he formed close bond fellow war poet Wilfred Owen.

He died in 1967, a few weeks before the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 passed. He sort of spent the last decade of his life in the shadow of the Wolfenden report.
Benediction intercuts archival footage of the war as it follows Sassoon (played at different ages by Jack Lowden and Peter Capaldi) through various emotional phases in his turbulent life.
From doomed love affairs with Ivor Novello (Jeremy Irvine) to his later conversion to Catholicism, Davies depicts the sorrows and the joys of Sassoon’s life, resulting in a portrait of a complex man searching for meaning throughout his life.
Sassoon’s life from WWI to the end of his life.
Terence Davies: I remember when homosexuality was a criminal offense, and seeing films like Victim.  It was an important film because it helped change the law. But when you’ve grown up with it being a criminal offense, even though you’ve not done anything, and that coupled with being Catholic, made it much harder.
What has happened since then, there’s been a much wider acceptance of homosexual things. But I do think sometimes that it’s skin deep. But at least the law was changed. At least you’re not seen as corruptive, or in any way corrupt, because we didn’t do anything to anybody.

Good Acting?

You don’t really have to go into that with the actors, because they already know it. The great thing with really good actors is that, like virtuosi who plays violin or piano, you just say one thing, and they do it. You think: how did they get it that quickly? Astonishing. That was the most revelatory. That they get it so quickly.

Sassoon looking for Catholicism late in life?

He wanted redemption, and nothing can give you that. Certainly, religion can’t. You have to find that within yourself, or you don’t find it at all. I think that’s what he was looking for. And of all the religions to wander into, the most guilt ridden is certainly a strange choice.

What kind of redemption?

I think in a sort of odd way, to be forgiven, but not for anything specific. Something wider. He did survive the First World War. Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen didn’t. He saw, to a certain extent, his work eclipsed by them, because death does confer on you some kind of special honor. I think that hurt him. But when you’re looking for something that will balm your soul, would you ever find it? I don’t think anybody does. You either have that or you don’t. I’ve been looking for it for 76 years now and I’ve never found it.