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NBooth

A Quiet Passion

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It may be a little early for a thread, but I suspect that a few folks around here dig Emily Dickinson, so this news should be of interest:

Cynthia Nixon's playing Dickinson in Terence Davies' biopic A Quiet Passion.

The film will trace Dickinson's life from precocious schoolgirl to the tortured recluse who saw only seven of her more than 1,000 poems published in her lifetime. After her death, Dickinson was recognized as one of the greatest American poets of all time.

Full confession: I can't stand Dickinson. I find her way too mannered and sing-songy. But I'm still kind of interested in seeing how this project turns out.

EDIT: How does one edit tags? I ran Dickinson and Nixon together....

Edited by NBooth

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I'm really looking forward to this, but that trailer felt really weird and off for me.  I don't know how the movie plays, but the trailer seems like they were trying to make Dickinson's life seem much more dramatic and eventful than it was (though of course her inner life was eventful, and I assume that's what the title's all about).  It just felt like it was trying too hard.

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NBooth wrote:
: Full confession: I can't stand Dickinson. I find her way too mannered and sing-songy. But I'm still kind of interested in seeing how this project turns out.

Ha! I know absolutely nothing about Dickinson, but I saw the film a few days ago and remarked to a friend afterwards that the dialogue seemed very... I might have said "mannered" if the word had occurred to me, but I think I said instead that the film had the sort of dialogue and performances you'd get from a stage play, and my friend (who liked the film more than I did, I think) conceded that the dialogue was kind of "arch".

I saw this either just before or just after seeing Neruda, and I do wonder if movies about poets are kind of wasted on me, since I don't read poetry and I don't have the biographical or literary contexts within which to situate these films.

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The use of the poetry is so very on-the-nose, that it continually surprised me and took me out of the movie. 

Honestly, it felt more like an undergraduate paper than a script, with all the attendant assumptions about autobiographical criticism informing a poet's work.

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Saw this recently… 

[SPOILERS] 

As Peter noted, the dialogue is “arch”--and the witty banter gets a little heavy-handed.  

As Ken said, the voice-over poems are very on-the-nose… one of the most awkward moments is when Emily holds Austin and Susan’s baby and recites her “I’m Nobody” poem to him. 

There was too much of Vryling Buffam, who’s only mentioned in one biography footnote as a friend of Vinnie’s.  Also, Mabel Todd and Emily never met face to face. 

Maybe I’m not recalling  correctly, but – was there really no mention of Thomas Higginson, the editor Emily was friends with for decades? Nothing about George Gould, who may have been engaged to her--or her later romance with Judge Otis Lord, who proposed marriage? Nothing about the Master Letters? Nothing about the eye ailment that disrupted her life extensively. Too many long convulsion scenes…made her look like an epileptic.  [The film could have showed how, in fact, Emily refused to let a doctor at her bedside…which made diagnosis almost impossible.]  

Still, as a literary period piece the film is a splendid tribute, and Cynthia Nixon did a superb job of making Emily rebellious and vulnerable, unflinchingly honest.

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As someone who has liked the few Dickinson's poems he's read, but doesn't know too much about her works or her life, I may have been the perfect audience for the film - enough knowledge to appreciate the poetry references and biographical bits that were included, but not enough to knowledge to form any substantial criticism on those grounds. However, I absolutely loved it; it's pretty easily my favorite film of the year so far (with The Salesman being the only thing I'd consider switching with it.) Davies' directing is gorgeous, Nixon and Ehle both play their characters flawlessly, and the mannered nature of the script drew me into a world gone by, while reinforcing how out of touch Emily is with her time. The final argument between the sisters is going to haunt me for the rest of the year as well.

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Easily my favorite of the year so far. 

My review.

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