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A Quiet Passion (2016)

PG-13 | | Biography, Drama | 7 April 2017 (UK)
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The story of American poet Emily Dickinson from her early days as a young schoolgirl to her later years as a reclusive, unrecognized artist.

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3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Sara Vertongen ...
Miss Lyon (as Sara Louise Vertongen)
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...
...
Father
Marieke Bresseleers ...
David Van Bouwel ...
Concert Hall Pianist
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Aunt Elizabeth
Steve Dan Mills ...
Dr. Holland
...
Mother
Daniel Vereenooghe ...
Carriage Driver
Michel Delanghe ...
Carriage Driver Assistant
Maurice Cassiers ...
Photographer
...
...
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Storyline

The story of American poet Emily Dickinson from her early days as a young schoolgirl to her later years as a reclusive, unrecognized artist.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images and brief suggestive material | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

7 April 2017 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A lélek saját társat választ  »

Box Office

Budget:

€6,900,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$45,825 (USA) (14 April 2017)

Gross:

$1,793,132 (USA) (16 June 2017)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Cynthia Nixon has detected similarities in the personality of Emily Dickinson with hers: In having big feelings, in wanting to connect with other people but not for example party with them, and in desiring to receive attention but kind of having a reluctance of the certain things one does that make it happen. See more »

Goofs

In a lamp-lit scene where the Dickinson family sits in the drawing room, Emily is reading a book. The lamp is on the opposite of the print. There is no way she could have seen a single word on the page. See more »

Quotes

Emily Dickinson: Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me.
See more »

Soundtracks

Nacht und Träume
Written by Franz Schubert
Performed by Marieke Bresseleers, Noémie Schellens and Luc De Vos (as Luc Devos)
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User Reviews

 
A Superb Dramatization of the Life of a Great American Poet
15 October 2016 | by (Dundas, Canada) – See all my reviews

Emily Dickinson isn't the easiest subject for a feature-length biopic. True, she is the greatest female poet in the English language, maybe even in world literature. But her life was uneventful in the extreme. She never married and probably died a virgin. Her love affairs were conducted by correspondence. She became reclusive as she got older, donning a white dress, rarely leaving home, and holding conversations through doorways. She wrote poetry—a kind of literature appealing only to a tiny minority of readers and not amenable to film adaptation. Moreover, with a few exceptions, her poems are difficult: she specialized in extreme mental states and thorny intellectual paradoxes. And she died in complete obscurity—it's only by good fortune that the 1800 poems she wrote still exist. At her death the vast majority of them existed only in a single handwritten manuscript and could easily have been consigned to flame as the ramblings of an eccentric spinster.

So Dickinson's biography hardly conforms to the typical story arc or dramatic requirements of the average American film. Until now, the most successful dramatization of the life of this poet who lived an interior existence, both literally and figuratively, was the one-woman play The Belle of Amherst, which needless to say emphasized her isolation.

Terence Davies's film knows and accepts all this, yet remembers that Dickinson in her own time was not a great poet, except perhaps only in the farthest reaches of her own imagination. Instead of a lonely genius, Davies conjures up a Dickinson who was very much a social being, even if her interactions were largely restricted to her family. Cynthia Nixon's Emily is a flawed, totally plausible, and deeply sympathetic woman of her time.

This is a brilliant film in the way it exploits the resources of the medium. The performances are universally excellent, and the dialogue is as witty as it must have been among clever Emily and her circle. Davies captures the claustrophobic interiors and repressed souls of still- Puritan mid-19th-century small-town Amherst, Massachusetts. The editing and pacing are superb, as for example in a slow 360 degree pan around the Dickinson sitting room that begins and ends on Emily's face.

But it's also brilliant in the way that it interprets Dickinson's life. How did the Civil War impact her Amherst domesticity? Why did she wear a white dress? What did she feel when her brother Austin, who lived with his wife Susan next door, started conducting an adulterous affair in her own living room? How did she feel to be dying slowly and horribly of kidney disease knowing that her poetry (her "Letter to the World" as she put it) was almost totally unread? Did the hope that she'd be appreciated by posterity reconcile her to her fate? Nixon's Emily behaves in each case as a human being would, making her predicament painful to watch. But it's strangely exhilarating too—we watch knowing that Dickinson's "Letter" has most definitely been delivered.

The film is slow-paced and developed as a series of vignettes. There's quite a lot of poetry in voice-over. At no point does it pander to 21st- century sensibilities. It will not be to the taste of the majority of the cinema-going public. Nor will many Dickinson cultists enjoy it, as they often prefer to idealize or mythologize her rather than think of her as a flesh-and-blood woman. But as a plausible biography of one of America's greatest poets, this film is nothing short of a triumph.


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