One of the most remarkable moments in A Quiet Passion
, Terence Davies
’ witty and stirring Emily Dickinson
biopic, is a simple transitional device. Emily, played as a teenager by Emma Bell
, has sat down to pose for what will become one of the only surviving photos of the poet, taken in 1847. Davies slinks his camera forward, pushing in on her face, until—through some almost imperceptible trick of the light—Bell has transformed, before our very eyes, into Cynthia Nixon
. This amazingly seamless special effect serves a practical function: A Quiet Passion
has leapt from Dickinson’s youth to her adulthood, and from here Nixon will take over the role. But given the preoccupations of this great American artist, unsung in her own time but almost universally beloved today, the moment shudders with an additional significance. Emily knew, as well as any, that life is short. It can pass ...