Author: Hannah Kinney-Kobre

January 12, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Hannah Kinney-Kobre

The life of the writer does not particularly lend itself to being dramatized on film. The solitary act of writing is not a very cinematic event, and to incorporate the written works themselves is a difficult and fraught task. A limp voiceover or spontaneous reading can easily feel obligatory or out of place. But A Quiet Passion manages to avoid these traps. The film covers the life of poet Emily Dickinson, from her first rebellious spat with evangelism at school to her inevitable death. And as far as biopics go, it is an anomaly. The film is arranged into little vignettes that can be best described as movements of sort; this musical metaphor is also apt for the way the film uses Dickinson’s poetry: interspersed through the film, read aloud by Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon) and weaving in and out of the film like part of the soundtrack. Director Terence Davies in an interview rightfully noted, “The poems […] have to act as music.”