See it at the Movies



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(Life of Emily Dickinson)

 While I studied Emily Dickinson’s poetry in my college American literature classes, all I remember is that much of her work was dark and somber. “A Quiet Passion” tells the story of her life, which itself is quite dark and somber.
Dickinson was born in 1830 and died in 1886, a period of unrest in America and a time when women were considered second-class citizens in a male-dominated, religiously hypocritical era.
We first meet Emily as she departs from a rigid school after challenging the strict religious codes. She chooses to remain at home with her well-to-do family, spending her nights writing poetry, which most people don’t understand or appreciate.
Emma Bell plays the young Emily, and when the narrative moves 10 years forward in her life, we are treated to photos of her and her family as their facial features change before our eyes – a most effective technique. Emily is then played brilliantly by Cynthia Nixon, who also recites portions of her poetry in voiceovers.
The movie is a close study of a lonely, insecure, angry, challenging feminist who is not afraid to speak her mind. It is also a reflection of the times when people hid behind their religious beliefs. The language expressed through the characters and through Dickinson’s poetry is exquisite and will be appreciated more by those who enjoy poetry and know a bit of her work
Our problem with the movie is the slow pace of the camera work, as a scene moves agonizingly across a room, showing every wall and item, plus the death scenes which go on longer than “Romeo and Juliet.” Some may consider this brilliant cinematography, but we were put to sleep.
I found myself writing down a number of lines from the freethinking Emily’s poetry and responses to the evangelistic folks who challenged her refusal to accept. “I need no church,” she claims. “God knows what’s in my heart.”
“A Quiet Passion” may not be a movie for everyone, especially those who seek action, but it does tell an intimate story about one of America’s great poets, feminists and freethinkers.
Rated PG-13. A must for college English majors.


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