Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-04-18
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



MOVIES Terence Davies on his latest 'Passion'
by Lawrence Ferber

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

British director Terence Davies has long been praised for his poetic, lyrical films, including 1992's autobiographical The Long Day Closes, 2000's Edith Wharton novel adaptation The House of Mirth and last year's Sunset Song, based on Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Scottish novel. Perhaps, then, it's no surprise that the openly gay Davies has crafted another masterpiece with A Quiet Passion, his biopic on poet Emily Dickinson.

The New Yorker's Richard Brody proclaimed Passion "an absolute drop-dead masterwork" after seeing it at February's Berlin Film Festival, and Cynthia Nixon proves to be a revelation as Dickinson. It's not exactly a spoiler, but her final stretch, as Dickinson succumbed to grueling illness at age 55, entails one of the most visceral, heart-wrenching passages committed to modern cinema.

"What we don't understand these days, because we have so many drugs to kill pain, is they had nothing," a perky Davies explained. "With the exception of laudanum, a kind of opiate to which you could become addicted, if you had a serious illness you were in pain all the time and had to endure it. Emily had Bright's disease, which is a disease of the kidneys, although she actually died of congenital heart failure. It was a painful death, and there was no palliative medicine at the end of life, you just had to endure it until you died—nd that was a constant throughout the 19th century."

A Quiet Passion begins during the mid-1800s, when the teenaged Dickinson ( Emma Bell ), a student at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, decides to take up poetry. Obtaining the permission of her father, Edward ( Keith Carradine ), to write during evenings, she later gets published—but is told that women cannot reach the same literary heights as men. Once Nixon steps in as the adult Dickinson, we trace her relationships with best friend Vryling Buffum ( Catherine Bailey ), younger sister Lavinia ( Jennifer Ehle ) and brother Austin ( Duncan Duff ); romantic longing for a married, emotionally unavailable Reverend ( Eric Loren ); spiritual crises; and, eventually, illness.

Dickinson only became known to the world after her death and, in fact, almost 2,000 poems, bound in some 40 volumes, were discovered after she passed:Oonly a handful or two were published while she lived. Today, she is a household name.

Despite the bleak aspects of Dickinson's life, Davies mines humor from the patriarchal stuffiness and formality of the era. Edward, a comparative progressive for the time and one-term Congressman, balks at the shocking spectacle of a woman who dares to sing during a night at the theater. "A gift is no excuse for a female to exhibit herself in that way," he clucks. Davies also keeps things light with zingy, aphorism-rich dialogue that falls somewhere between Oscar Wilde and Whit Stillman.

"I didn't want it all to be solemn," Davies said. "I want it to be fun as well."

Davies adds that shooting the film in Antwerp, Belgium ( standing in for 19th-century Massachusetts ) proved a personal joy. Despite a professed distaste for Sex and the City, he envisioned Nixon as his dream Dickinson from the get-go. "I just disagree with its subtext," he confessed about the HBO show and movie series, "that all you do is go to bed with people and buy things and then eat. I find that rather bleak. I have only watched it once. I just wanted to see Cynthia's reaction shots, which were always the truest. But I do disapprove of it!"

The actress had previously been attached to another film Davies hoped to mount some years back; however, financing never materialized. Her likeness to Dickinson and a mutual fondness for the poet's work ( Davies incorporated some of Dickinson's poetry into his 2008 cinematic ode to Liverpool, Of Time And The City ) sealed the deal, and he wrote the script during 2012 with her specifically in mind.

In whittling down the events and people from Dickinson's life to form a two-hour movie that nonetheless covers a lot of ground and years, Davies' script ended up with hefty autobiographical elements from his own life. ( His agent told him it's his most autobiographical work yet, and Davies agrees. ) Like Dickinson, he was extremely close to his family members: As a youth was sent away to a school and suffered a deep homesickness, and they both struggled with spirituality.

"She was fierce in protecting her soul, but what comes across in the poetry is, what if you have a soul and there is no God?" Davies said. "What do you do? I was a very devout Catholic and, from age 15 to 22, I had my doubts. In those days you were told it was the work of the devil, and I fought with that for seven years. At 22, I didn't need it anymore."

However, Davies said the film is ultimately "a fictitious version of her life through my subjective prism, so you may not necessarily agree with it. You could only respond to those things in someone's life that have echoes of you. She had a correspondence with someone named the Master and nobody knows who it was. She improvised on the piano. All those things you cannot keep, because we are contractually obliged to bring in a movie of less than two hours."

The same rules apply to another biopic about British poet Siegfried Sassoon—who was also gay and a WWI hero—and Davies just completed a draft of it. "Anybody who was anybody in the 20th century, he met!" Davies said with a laugh. "He knew everybody! So that's going to be played down; otherwise, it becomes name-dropping."

Like countryman Ridley Scott ( The Martian, Alien: Covenant ), Davies is proving quite prolific as a septuagenarian ( he's 71 ), with an adaptation of Richard McCann's 2005 autobiography, Mother of Sorrows, also in the works ( and which may feature Paul Dano ). However, the dryly self-deprecating Davies noted that, while international acclaim is coming his way these days, he's not holding out hopes for a boyfriend, even despite a wave of popularity for "daddies" and websites and apps designed to connect them.

"Sex with a 71-year-old is too close to necrophilia for my taste," he said, laughing. "I've been celibate since 1980. But I'm not physically attractive, I never was. Young, good-looking and very stupid—that's a combination nobody else will beat!"

A Quiet Passion will be shown Monday, April 3, at 7 p.m. at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St.; visit It will be released in select theaters on Friday, April 14.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

NUNN ON ONE MOVIES Peaches Christ, worshipping at altars of John Waters, Mink Stole 2018-04-18 - Director John Waters has influenced and created many movie stars over the years with an iconic career. Known as the Dreamlanders, many of ...

Gay News

GLAAD Media Awards honors Spears, Parsons 2018-04-18 - The GLAAD Media Awards took place April 12 in Los Angeles, with comedian/actress Wanda Sykes as host. GLAAD honored Britney Spears, Jim Parsons ...

Gay News

Siskel showing 'Best of Black Harvest' 2018-04-18 - The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago announced increased funding for The Best of Black Harvest ...

Gay News

Billy Masters 2018-04-18 - "You know, and I will get fired for this, but I'm never going to say that I don't. I will get fired for ...

Gay News

WORLD Anti-gay law, Middle East report, serial killer 2018-04-17 - In Trinidad and Tobago, judge Devindra Rampersad said sections of the Sexual Offences Act—which prohibited "buggery" and "serious indecency" between two men—criminalized consensual ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Pose,' Beyonce, 'Days of Our Lives,' Serena Williams 2018-04-17 - Television audiences got their first glimpse of FX's hotly anticipated, history-making series Pose with the release of the show's first trailer, The Huffington ...

Gay News

May Pride Film Fest "Celebrating Who We Are" May 8 2018-04-16 - Chicago, IL - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Pride Films and Plays' eighth monthly festival of LGBTQ independent films will be screened on Tuesday, May ...

Gay News

Chicago Filmmakers Ribbon Cutting Ceremony April 28 2018-04-13 - Chicago Filmmakers invites the public to the opening of its new home, a 1928 Chicago Historic Landmark firehouse purchased from the city of ...

Gay News

No Straight Lines: The Story of Queer Comics launches fundraising 2018-04-13 - April 9, 2018, Berkeley, CA — Today, filmmaker Vivian Kleiman and comics artist and advocate Justin Hall announced that their feature-length documentary film, ...

Gay News

Five Worth Finding, books, Phluid Project, restaurants 2018-04-11 - —Given Up for You: In this honest memoir from University of Wisconsin Press, Erin O. White shares her hunger for love—both religious and ...


Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.