Featured image – Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle in A QUIET PASSION.
Emily Dickinson was first featured in Terence Davies cinematic ode to Liverpool, Of Time and The City, which contained his recitation of “I reason, earth is short and anguish absolute, and many hurt, but what of that? I reason we could die – the best vitality cannot excel decay. But what of that? I reason that in Heaven, somehow it will be even, some new equation given. But what of that?”
With A QUIET PASSION he has delivered a fully fledged bio-pic of the sublime poet, but what of that?
A portrait of a morbid, obsessed recluse needs careful handling and for the most part Davies’ picture is a fascinating and enthralling character study of people, time and place.
Born into privilege in 1803, Emily Dickinson spent most of her life on her parents estate in Amherst, Massachusetts. In her youth, as finely depicted by Emma Bell, Emily is a fiercely intelligent young woman, feisty in forthright opinions on life, art, love, religion and gender equality. This exasperated her teachers at Holyoke Female Seminary to the point of her expulsion. But what of that?
Sent home to the bosom of her family, she jousts with father, a perfect picture of paternal affection and frustration from Keith Carradine, and parries with sister, a sincere and sparkling turn of sibling simpatico from Jennifer Ehle.
As time passes, the mature Emily is taken up by Cynthia Dixon, in a performance that is rightfully being praised as a career best. But what of that?
Florian Hoffmeister’s cinematography is exemplary with both exteriors – Antwerp doubling for Amherst – and interiors having a definite 19th century feel.
The authentic look of the film is further enhanced by Merijn Serp’s production design and Catherine Marchand’s cossies. But what of that?
A QUIET PASSION does live up to it’s title – there is a passionate quiet at the core of the film, that now and then rudely bubbles to the surface. The results are exquisite. However, the film’s quiet passion verges on scuttling the sublime by shots that are excessively held, exhausting interest and rendering scenes enervating rather than exhilarating. But what of that?