A Quiet Passion Film

After much hassle, trying with a VPN to no avail (hello VPN newbie) my sought-after Amazon movie remained unavailable in my region. So, I resorted to YouTube, not really my fave. This old laptop can’t umph the volume enough for the platform.  Resigned, I followed Emily’s example and set up camp as a recluse, in my room, while the rest of the family watched a popular dystopian series in the TV room.

Closed the door, drew the curtains, placed the small screen on my nightstand, and sat on the edge of my Sunday dystopian bed. After surmounting the initial technical difficulties, I was ready to indulge in a film by English screenwriter and novelist Terence Davies.

I realize, months later, I’ve missed out, not having seen any of his previous work. I’m practically ashamed, really. The reason is the usual one. I’ve been distracted inside the dense bubble of survival mode on. To the point of forgetting fine moviemaking is always there, just around the corner.

And I’m guessing only Terrence could have portrayed her like this, being a writer himself.  Emily’s lines are living art. Thus, the film had to be exactly that. The motions of her life infused by words. And the other way around too. Life propelled by words, givers of anima.

An artful proposal, the scenes are akin to an exhibition, a dynamic walk through a museum, where stillness is relative to our perception of time. The Dickinson home is as much a character as the people it contains; a canvas for sober, unadorned days, apparently, because an undercurrent of passion flows through Emily and spills over, drenching all nooks and niches of the wooden abode. Even the scenes outdoors, in the garden, outside the church, are composed as if a painting from the great landscapers.

Cynthia Nixon embodies Emily’s persona with her stunning performance; the quiet passion trembling in her eyes with each line, seemingly on the brink of tears, a mixture of bliss and sorrow, a strange borderline between beauty and despair. Each dialogue a jewel, a special piece of the puzzle.

Interwoven are many of her longstanding quotes. Somehow they fit the scenes painlessly. I’m guessing some critics could say it sounded forced, affected, but I would argue that her words were never separated from her life, the way she lived, a type of honesty that demands outflow, be it on paper or at the family table.

Her mother’s depression caught me off guard. She and her sister Vinnie cope by offering pity, a compassion that seems to emerge naturally from their inability to do more than provide soothing comfort. Not much else could be done. To me, this severe mental state is a crossroads, a symbol, almost a point of union for the poet, where the despair of it all meets her constant flux of awe.

A heavy burden for sure.

Davis depicted her father as a disciplined and diligent man, intellectually inclined, and emotionally contained, but loving in his own austere way. I wondered if he felt abandoned as he didn’t have a fully dimensional wife at his side. She was partly gone. Depression sucked her in, and nobody could rescue her. ¿How afflicted was he by this special type of abandonment?

Emily, the town recluse, exercised freedom in her own way, like when she negotiated to use nights for her writing. I could only guess her father was the keeper of household rules, of correctness (mom wasn’t there) and these dictated the people should be asleep at such hours. And when she refuses to go to mass or to kneel when their pastor commands, as they would pray for her salvation.

But she doesn’t. Maybe too keenly aware, she wasn’t there yet, ready to be saved.

Or maybe it was the exact opposite. She was fully arrived, awakened, at the end of things, a presence of being that sees poles unite, dualities collide, mesh. The kind of someone who we recognize as a poet.