Director: Malcolm Clarke
Screenwriters: Peter Barnes, Nicholas Meyer

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


The relationship between artist and critic has always been complex, but Academy Award–winning documentarist Malcolm Clarke’s first feature renders it downright twisted. The battle of wills between music critic Phillip Heseltine and composer Peter Warlock, catalyzed by their love for the same woman, becomes a terrifying give-and-take of madness, libel, and violence.

In London in 1930, Heseltine attends a concert of Warlock’s music and loathes it, although the rest of the audience enjoys it. That same night he meets American jazz singer Lily Buxton, and they fall in love. Soon she discovers his almost pathological dislike of Warlock’s music and decides to find out the reason. She tries to find Warlock through his and Heseltine’s mutual friend, pianist Gerald Duffy, but fails to locate him.

Meanwhile, Heseltine’s reviews of Warlock’s work grow more scathing, and he tries to have his work excluded from a royal concert. Warlock responds by sending death threats to Heseltine’s newspaper. Hoping to bring about a truce, Lily visits Warlock’s house, where she learns that the truth is more awful than she had imagined. Voices is intensely atmospheric. The re-creations of early thirties show halls and bars are marvelously accurate, and the performances elegantly shaded. All is saturated with shadows and fog-shrouded streets, accentuating the mystery.

— Piers Handling, Toronto Film festival

Screening Details

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