"could quite easily be one of Terence Davies greatest creations"
Emily Dickinson, thought to be America’s greatest poet, wrote up to 1800 poems and Director-screenwriter, Terence Davies describes them as being ‘intensely personal.’ In ‘A Quiet Passion’ her life is explored, played by Cynthia Nixon.
The film features international talent from the UK and Belgium, including the youngest ever winner of the Cannes Best Actress Award, Jodhi May.
Davies only ever had one Actress in mind for Dickinson, who centred his script round Cynthia Nixon. Nixon, best known for her portrayal of Miranda Hobbes in the HBO series, Sex and the City, won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2004. Her Broadway credits include The Real Thing (1983), Hurlyburly (1983), Indiscretions (1995), The Women (2001), Wit (2012), and The Little Foxes (2017).
In 2006 she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, for Rabbit Hole, and in 2008 the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.’
Florian Hoffmeister, whom Davies worked with previously on ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ (2011) provides the visuals to the film, and in the words of Terence “he is a true Artist.” Florian’s roots lie in using older-style camera techniques, and sees Terence as someone who is guided by his emotional response to both stories and imagery.
There most certainly is something extremely intimate about the way in which he chooses to make films. Davies appears to let out a whole stream of pent-up creativity, as he combines a seemingly torturous biopic with a comical satire. Close-ups are softly composed and blended with group portraits, which include some three-hundred-and-sixty-degree pans.
The poet’s home of Massachusetts was brought to life in Antwerp, where interiors from the Dickinson Homestead were reconstructed in a studio. Poetry recitals made by Nixon are uttered simultaneously alongside the soundtrack, so that they might be interpreted in the same way as a musical score.
Cynthia Nixon’s reincarnation of Emily Dickinson is nothing short of special, with her perfect poise, yet quiet passion. And the script with its use of sharp language and witty characters make ‘A Quiet Passion’ quite the surprising delight. A perfect partnership, it would seem was found in the film’s Belgian co-producers, who helped to withhold what is a “great collaborative spirit.”
Norman Mailer said ‘the one character that novelists can’t successfully create is that of a novelist better than themselves.’ But Davies for thirty years has been on the list of best filmmakers, and although not concealed to the same degree as Dickinson, he is not heralded to the level he rightfully deserves.
‘A Quiet Passion’ could quite easily be one of his greatest creations, where we are led into the inner world of Dickinson, one of narrow-minded circles, which she choses to retract from and instead expel all of her emotions through her ever-extensive word-bank.