The secular religion of sex is no succor. Throughout Sea, Hester is warned against the folly of following her libido: "Beware of passion—it always leads to something ugly," warns her mother-in-law, while Hester's vicar father warns of "the pettiness of the physical." This is, of course, the sort of prudence that smugly modern movies mock, but what makes Sea disturbing is that it never patly disproves this advice. Davies is quite frank about his own anxiety over grand amour. "Possessiveness and distrust and defeat and all those things . . . I couldn't take it. I could not take it, which is why I've been celibate since 1980. I simply can't take all that." There is, however, a new measure of hope in Sea—for unlike Lily Bart, Hester lives to love another day.
Davies, hopefully, will find his own outlets, and he rattles off a list of potential projects in the offing: There is the long-rumored adaptation of Sunset Song, a 1932 Scotch novel of abiding feminine endurance by Lewis Grassic Gibbon; an original screenplay about Emily Dickinson, a social outsider after his own heart; and finally, and most surprisingly, an adaptation of an Ed McBain novel, He Who Hesitates. When I suggest to Davies that this is the perfect title for his next retrospective—think of the boy, face pressed to the window, in Long Day Closes; Lily Bart, dying proud but virginal—he laughs long and concurs.
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