Reviewed byPaul-ConnellVote: 8/10/10
I dragged myself to see a film about someone I knew nothing about -except from a line in a Simon and Garfunkel song - and the odd mentionfrom friends years ago - assuming it could easily be a scriptwritersfantasy world - but at least a costume drama outlining the person, hersurroundings and time.
It was in fact very moving - drawing you into a the completely unknownmind of this women and the people around her - no one left the cinemaimmediately but just stayed and stared - were they as upset as I was ?
It was all the more interesting coming one day after a very interestingdocumentary of the journey of the Mayflower migrants from 1608 whenthey fled to Holland for a new life and then to a ship in 1620 to crossthe Atlantic so their children would still be English and not Dutchpuritans - the documentary forces you to step into the minds andmotives of these people, who should have perished but managed tosurvive due to a powerful faith - which appears just nonsense to me -but it does come from the times - the evolution of human consciousness.
Emily Dickinson is there 200 years after - still in a fossilizedsociety - soon to be taken over by Irish Catholicism in Boston - in astyle reminiscent of a theater play of the day - at first too witty andfull of riposte, but which slowly takes hold of you.
The actors are all good, but the driving force is the question of whatit was like to be a woman in this time - what did they actually thinkand do - why did Emily and her sister not marry but stay at home - wasthe world outside, and the society of men, so cold, foreign and formalthat they stayed where they were sure there was warmth.
A good film if you want to realize you don't really understand howother people see the world - and to be moved by the fact they simplyexist and feel, and are then snuffed out like a candle flame.
Reviewed byRuben MooijmanVote: 7/10/10
- He's not even capable of making up his mind. - That's because he'stoo stupid to have one.
You'd expect this kind of witty dialogue in a Woody Allen film aboutcondescending New York intellectuals. But 'A Quiet Passion', about 19thcentury American poet Emily Dickinson, is also full of it. Clearly, sheused her talent not only to write poetry, but also to engage inspirited conversation.
British director Terence Davies shows Dickinson as a person who refusedto stick to the strict rules of life in the Victorian era. She had amind of her own, and was not afraid to speak out. At the same time, sheseemed to have trouble finding happiness. The most tragic element ofher life was that her poetry was hardly appreciated. Only a few poemswere published in the local paper.
All this is subtly shown in the biopic, which follows Dickinson fromher childhood to her death. The poems are read by a voice-over, whichis not the easiest way to appreciate poetry. But at the same time, thepoems are a necessary element to understand Dickinson as she was.
Cynthia Nixon gives a good, restrained performance. It's nice to seeher in a role that's the complete opposite from the career lawyerMiranda in 'Sex and the City'.
Director Davies doesn't speed things up. The film is a calm and quietaffair, which is good because Dickinson's life itself was calm andquiet. Some scenes are beautiful just because they are unhurried: inone scene, the camera moves extremely slowly around Dickinson's livingroom, lingering on walls and doors as well as on the people present.
If you are acquainted with Emily Dickinson's work, this film gives aninteresting insight into her life and her poetry. If you're not, thisfilm is a great introduction to it.
Reviewed byHoward SchumannVote: 7/10/10
The great American poet Emily Dickinson wrote:
"Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me; Thecarriage held but just ourselves And Immortality."
Whether or not Dickinson stopped for life, it kindly stopped for herand her immortality is enshrined in the legacy of the 1800 exquisitepoems she left, only ten of which were published during her lifetime.She did not leave any commentaries to interpret her work, but left themfor us to understand and explain. One interpretation of her life andwork is provided by Terence Davies in his film A Quiet Passion, asympathetic but overwritten and curiously wooden look at her life andthe influences that shaped her art. Starring Cynthia Nixon ("TheAdderall Diaries") as Emily, Davies traces Dickinson's life in astandard linear format. Raised in the Puritan New England city ofAmherst, Massachusetts (the film is shot near Antwerp, Belgium) thepoet was lonely and secretive throughout her life, seldom left home,and visitors were few.
She stayed with her family all of her life, living through births,marriages, and deaths but always setting aside the early morning hoursin her study to compose. Bright and outgoing as a young woman, Emily isportrayed as becoming more isolated, and bitter as she grows older. Heronly companions were her austere and unforgiving father, Edward (KeithCarradine, "Ain't Them Bodies Saints"), a one-term Congressman, herhaughty brother, Austin (Duncan Duff, "Island"), who became an attorneyand lived next door with his wife Susan Gilbert (Johdi May, "Ginger andRosa"), and her younger sister, Lavinia (Jennifer Ehle, "Little Men")who was her greatest solace. As the film opens, Emily is tagged as anoutsider almost immediately. As a young student (Emma Bell, "See You inValhalla") at the Mount Holyoke women's seminary, she stands up to thegoverness by declaring that she does not want either to be saved bydivine Providence or forgotten by it and also speaks out for feminism,women's rights and abolitionism.
Her willingness to challenge conventional thinking by dismissingLongfellow's poem "The Song of Hiawatha" as "gruel," and her supportfor the poorly-regarded Bronte sisters was not appreciated by herfamily. "If they wanted to be wholesome," she retorted, "I imagine theywould crochet." As Davies cleverly morphs the faces of Emily and herwell-to-do family from children into adults, a clearer picture emergesof her relationship with her strict father and reserved mother (JoannaBacon, "Love Actually"). Her only refuge from family conflicts anddisappointments was her intimate relationship with Vinnie, thecompanionship of her best friend Vryling Buffam (Catherine Bailey, "TheGrind"), and the sermons of Reverend Wadsworth (Eric Loren, "RedLights"). Irreverent and provocative, Emily, Vinnie, and Vryling areshown walking through the gardens, exchanging witty aphorisms whilethey twirl their parasols, but the element of artifice is overbearing.
We do not see Emily in the process of composition but listen to herpoems read aloud in voice-over. They are the highlight of the film, butthere are not enough of them and too much time is spent on Emily's sadphysical deterioration as she confronts the debilitating Bright'sdisease. In this regard, there is no subtlety in the film'spresentation as the camera unnecessarily lingers over Emily's shakingfits for an inordinate length of time and her last days are anendurance test for the audience. In spite of the family's strongreligious approach to life, there is no reflection about her life andlegacy or talk about life's meaning and purpose.
Though Emily Dickinson's poetry glimmers with a spiritual glow, theuniqueness of who she is does not fully come across. For all of itsfine performances and moments of comic satire, A Quiet Passion isdramatically inert, and its stilted and mannered dialogue is anemotional straitjacket with each character talking to the other as ifthey were reading a book of aphorisms. Terence Davies has directed somememorable period films in his career such as his remarkable adaptationof Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth. A Quiet Passion, however, hasneither quiet nor passion. Gratitude must be offered, however, toDavies for introducing the poems of Emily Dickinson to a wideraudience. Thanks Terence and thanks Emily.
"You left me, sweet, two legacies, A legacy of love A Heavenly Fatherwould content, Had He the offer of; You left me boundaries of painCapacious as the sea, Between eternity and time, Your consciousness andme"
The story of American poet Emily Dickinson from her early days as a young schoolgirl to her later years as a reclusive, unrecognized artist.