A Quiet Passion

LetterboxD review link

In the same way as Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship was a revelation for me last year, this year’s A Quiet Passion left me feeling a strong sense of shame that younger me couldn’t find modernity and meaning in stories from these eras. There is as much modern exploration of gender, marriage, and equality in this film as any blog post or op-ed you might read on a news site today. Cynthia Nixon’s performance has been receiving ample praise and that’s what drew me to this film. But there is much more here than a performance.

The wit and wisdom Emily Dickinson posessed, her complex thoughts about society and social relations, and her predeliction for being alone (or at least deep skepticism of spending time with other people), might have led her to a life like Thoreau’s – in a cabin on a pond. But women in her time couldn’t afford such lifestyles. So she found her solace at 3am, in the quiet of her own house, while her family slept. A lot of the philosophical and aesthetic themes in Dickinson’s work are twinly displayed in this film in its own aesthetic choices. Camera movements are austere. Shots are beautifully, darkly composed. There are few cuts and scenes play out as much off screen as on screen.

I would also be remiss to not mention how great a character Ms. Buffam is. If she gets her own spinoff somewhere, I’m in.