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He's not even capable of making up his mind. - That's because he's
too stupid to have one.
You'd expect this kind of witty dialogue in a Woody Allen film about condescending New York intellectuals. But 'A Quiet Passion', about 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, is also full of it. Clearly, she used her talent not only to write poetry, but also to engage in spirited conversation.
British director Terence Davies shows Dickinson as a person who refused to stick to the strict rules of life in the Victorian era. She had a mind of her own, and was not afraid to speak out. At the same time, she seemed to have trouble finding happiness. The most tragic element of her life was that her poetry was hardly appreciated. Only a few poems were published in the local paper.
All this is subtly shown in the biopic, which follows Dickinson from her childhood to her death. The poems are read by a voice-over, which is not the easiest way to appreciate poetry. But at the same time, the poems are a necessary element to understand Dickinson as she was.
Cynthia Nixon gives a good, restrained performance. It's nice to see her in a role that's the complete opposite from the career lawyer Miranda in 'Sex and the City'.
Director Davies doesn't speed things up. The film is a calm and quiet affair, which is good because Dickinson's life itself was calm and quiet. Some scenes are beautiful just because they are unhurried: in one scene, the camera moves extremely slowly around Dickinson's living room, lingering on walls and doors as well as on the people present.
If you are acquainted with Emily Dickinson's work, this film gives an interesting insight into her life and her poetry. If you're not, this film is a great introduction to it.
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