A Quiet Passion

A Quiet Passion

DVD - 2017
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Cynthia Nixon delivers a triumphant performance as Emily Dickinson, personifying the biting wit and staunch independence of the great American poet, who would not be recognized until after her death. Revered British director Terence Davies exquisitely evokes the manners, mores and spiritual convictions of the period with which Dickinson struggled before finding transcendence in her poetry.


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May 31, 2019

Yet another 90s Rotten Tomatoes film that will appeal to only a small audience. Cynthia Nixon totally nails Emily Dickinson; the problem is that Miss Emily's life is not something many of us would want to live, or even devote an evening to watching.

May 01, 2019

I stopped watching about halfway through due to wooden acting. The awkward insertion of Dickinson's quotes interrupted the actors' flow and felt forced. Will keep an eye out for a better adaptation of this important American poet and writer.

Apr 08, 2019

Great movie; great action!

Mar 15, 2019

...unless you're an Emily Dickson fan I think you'll be disappointed in this movie. It's very boring to someone who isn't a fan. If watching someone who is sick or dying is your thing then go ahead and watch it. We watched it, hoping for something more, but nothing else happened.

TristanTM Feb 24, 2019

Many good quotes in this one - will appeal to those aspiring to forge their own way despite onerous circumstances. Also a portrait of an idiosyncratic and inspirational woman. Resonant for artists of all types.

Jan 19, 2019

A story well worth watching and one you must listen carefully to to fully appreciate a female writer's perspective of that era.

Dec 16, 2018

Terrible acting and PC overkill.

Apr 25, 2018

"The Soul selects her own Society/Then-shuts the door-"
There are very few good films about writers, probably because writing is a solitary, introspective, and not very cinematic art. This film does presume some familiarity with Emily Dickinson, as well as with British director Terrence Davies, who has made exquisite, yet very slow films like "Distant Voice, Still Lives" and "The House of Mirth." Like those, this is beautifully made and a little slow. Yet I think it rewards the patient viewer. Cynthia Nixon is excellent as Dickinson and very unlike the stereotype of the dour, housebound spinster. The film focuses not just on her poetry but on her relationship with her family. Jennifer Ehle and Keith Carradine are equally good as her sister and father, respectively. Again, don't go into this expecting a roller coaster ride, but if you have any interest in Dickinson, this is a thoughtful and lovely film about her.

Apr 22, 2018

I guess I'm not intellectual and literary enough to "get" this movie. I don't have more than a casual interest in Emily Dickinson, but I was hoping to be informed and entertained. I mean, I guess I was technically informed, as I now know slightly more than I did before watching it... but entertainment was severely lacking, and I couldn't even finish the movie. Which is sad, as I've managed to finish a couple of truly awful Hallmark movies; Transformers; and I only fell asleep once (okay, maybe twice) during that Jason Bourne movie my friends wanted to see in theater.

Tl;dr This is a deeply depressing movie with little drama to recommend it, and I made it an hour in before I had to stop. If you're interested in female literary heroes, the one about the Bronte sisters is a lot better.

Apr 01, 2018

A beautiful movie with great acting. Sometimes the moments were stretched or actions overdone.

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Aug 20, 2017

Yes. What is it that you are suffering from?
- An acute case of evangelism.
And the Germans are wonderful in music.
-That's true. English, thank heaven, is not a language that can be sung.
But, Aunt Elizabeth, you love your hymn tunes.
-Hymns are different. They have absolutely nothing to do with music.

I'm sure your verse is equal to your talent, Aunt.
-If I were clever enough, I should probably take offence at that dubious compliment.
Poems are my solace for the eternity which surrounds us all.
And what of vice? Surely vice is only virtue in disguise.
Oh, cherish your ignorance, Aunt. You never know when you will need it.
-Edward! Your children astound me. They ought to be sent to their rooms and pummelled.

I'm not afraid of death, Emily. Nor should you be. If we keep our souls in readiness for God, there can be no fear. He will smooth our way. I shall pray for you all. And remember, keep atheism at bay. And watch the clock that ticks for us all.

Aug 20, 2017

But surely they will forgive you.
-Ah, but will I forgive them?

I believe all women should have the same educational advantages as men. But ecclesiastical history? It sounds as dreary as Paradise.

Do you fear death?
- No. But I fear Heaven. I'm afraid it will seem like an anticlimax. Perfection usually does.
And what of Hell?
-I'm sure that will be even duller than Heaven. That will be the agony.
Going to church is like going to Boston. You only enjoy it after you've gotten home.
When the new pastor does arrive, you must point him out to me.
-So that you, too, may be saved?
No. So that I will know whom to avoid.
Do you guard your soul, Emily?
- As best as I am able, sir.
And Hell? What of Hell?
- Avoid it if I can. Endure it if I must.

Aug 20, 2017

Father Time knocks at my door also.
-And what precautions do you take?
I contrive never to be at home when he calls. All women should aspire to that state of readiness. No. Women should only aspire to be younger than their waistlines. Then the unpleasant topic of age becomes almost irrelevant.

Your soul is no trivial matter.
-I agree, Father.
That's why I'm so meticulous in guarding its independence.

This is my third commencement ball, and not a hint of romance.
-Do you suppose that men are frightened of a woman who teaches and is used to her independence? Men are supposed to be fearless, aren't they?
-In war, yes. In religion, always. In love, never.
Did you say something to him to shock him?
-Only that I'd just finished reading Wuthering Heights. And he was scandalised.
Had he read it?
- No. So I told him that to condemn a novel he had not read would be like going to Sodom or Gomorrah and being disappointed that neither were Philadelphia.

Aug 20, 2017

And you have your poetry.
-But you have a life.
I have a routine. It is God's one concession to a no-hoper.
-Does nothing give you solace?
For those of us who live minor lives, and are deprived of... a particular kind of love, we know best how to starve.
Your honesty is sublime.
-In the long term, honesty is not the best policy.
Is dishonesty?
- I prefer to call it diplomacy. That way, one can turn a tactical defeat into a victory.
Who proposed that?
- Oh, I don't know. Probably George Washington as he was crossing the Delaware. The wrong way.

I can't imagine myself beyond my family. Amongst strangers.
-You are a strange creature, with more depth, I suspect, than any of us.
How can you say that? I haven't demonstrated that at all.
-Oh, my dear, you don't demonstrate, you reveal.

Aug 20, 2017

I must have someone with a sense of humour, someone who can laugh at the world. Taking life seriously is the shortest route to disaster.
-And have you found such a one?
Someone has found me. A Mr Wilder, a Professor of Mathematics. And if he can find comedy in a vulgar fraction, I'm his.
- But do you love him?
Love? I cannot say. It's a very beguiling idea. They even say it exists.
-But how will you know? What if you make an error?
If he is a bad choice, I'll have him killed quietly and tell everyone he died of some sort of algebraic shock.
-I hope you will be happy.
That cannot be guaranteed. I'll settle for consideration.
- That sounds like surrender.
No, it's practicality.
-And who knows? Perhaps love will come in its wake.
Then I can relax into smugness.
- You could never be smug.
Life catches you out, Emily. In the end, we all become the thing we most dread.

Aug 20, 2017

Ridicule is not the way to any woman's heart, sir. Least of all mine.
-It was meant sincerely. Or should I judge beauty by the common standard?
Any standard may be common. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt.
-Perhaps contempt breeds familiarity. At any rate, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
That is no longer true, sir. For that truism has become a clich.
-Miss Dickinson, you are just a little too sharp.
And you, sir, are a little too quick to play the martyr.
But a person may hope.
-If you're too quick to hope, you'll always be disappointed.
And if I am too quick to despair, what then?
-Then you will be too slow to hope.
There is, I suppose, always posterity.
-But posterity is as comfortless as God.
That sounds like despair.
-No, it's bitterness. Besides... a posthumous reputation is only for those who, when living, weren't worth remembering.
Still... Ah! To be racked by success!
-But I would like some approval before I die.

Aug 20, 2017

He proposed to me by letter, so if the marriage is unhappy, I shall blame the US mail. Always conform. Keep disobedience secret. Be outwardly docile, but in your heart, you can be as revolutionary as you like.
- But isn't that hypocrisy?
Of course it is. But in America, we cherish it. We think it makes us incorruptible. You must never confuse the outer with the inner piety. Only Episcopalians do that.
-But I am rebellious and far from the grace of God. You are closer to Him than anyone I know.
Always look below the surface, Emily, but don't be afraid of what you find there.
- Chaos?
- Then I shall confront everything.
Don't be too radical, Emily. Radicals don't thrive in this country.
- But you are a radical.
But I'll eventually conform. For the sake of peace or a quiet life.

Aug 20, 2017

We outgrow love like other things and put it in the drawer, Till it an antique fashion shows Like costumes grandsires wore.
You could say thank you for my publishing some of your verse.
-For that, sir, you have more than my thanks. You have my gratitude. But, sir...
you have altered some of my punctuation.
Good Lord. What's a hyphen here or a semi-colon there?
- To many, nothing. But, to me, the alteration of my punctuation marks is very hard to endure.
Then I apologise. I was merely trying to make your meaning clearer to my readers.
-Clarity is one thing, sir, obviousness quite another. The only person qualified to interfere with the poet's work is the poet herself. From anyone else, it feels like an attack.
Admiration always masks envy.
-What does envy mask?
Oh, that masks admiration.

Aug 20, 2017

A man may love and then cool, but it is not that way with me.
-But you cannot be equal to a man.
If I cannot have equality, then I want nothing of love. I will not be so confined
that I cannot breathe.
-But a rebellious spirit invites only retribution.
Then I will be silent in my rebellion, so that no one will know what my true feelings are.
- God will know.
But I will not be married to God.
- But you are His possession and answerable to Him.
He will know of my struggle and be merciful. And if He does not exist, then I will be eternally free.
Perhaps next time, Emily, when you wish to say goodbye to a guest, you might consider using semaphore.
-There aren't enough flags to say what I wish to say.

You mistake confidence for narcissism, and womanly reticence for dullness.
-Whatever else can be said of Mrs Todd, no one could ever accuse her of reticence.
Or does one only require reticence in a wife?

Aug 20, 2017

My wife is perfectly happy.
- Yes, of course. I'm sure she sees infidelity, when accompanied by Schubert, as a delightful pastime. A kind of musical adultery.
Real artists cannot be confined by narrow convention.
-Real artists don't deceive themselves or their public.

I once hoped that Mabel would go up in a balloon, then explode.
-Oh, Vinnie, if that is the extent of your wickedness, your sainthood is assured, explosions notwithstanding.

Life is cruel.
- And cruelty knows no morality.


People are not saints, Emily. You judge too harshly because you judge too highly.
-Lowering a standard is the first excuse for every villainy.
And keeping to one high principle is the last refuge of the intolerant.
-And what of integrity? Austin was once fierce in his defence of it, and now it seems an encumbrance to be easily put aside!
Integrity, if taken too far, can be equally ruthless.

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