New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: Wild Nights with Emily

Emily Dickinson was labeled a recluse, but this film exposes shocking behavior for those times behind her confines. The film is lethargic in pace and Molly Shannon’s comedic talents are more evident in the beginning of the film. The flashbacks into Emily’s childhood show her love for Susan Gilbert from the start, which only grew more intimate and passionate throughout their lifetime. This film shows the meaning of love through her poems, no matter what your sexual orientation. 

Writer/Director Madeleine Olnek did her research. The ups and downs of publishing poems during her lifetime and after she died may be the most fascinating revelation of this film.There is incredible detail in the material Olnek has gleaned from actual letters sent between the two Dickinsons,  Emily and her brother’s wife, Susan Gilbert Dickinson (Susan Ziegler). Olnek makes clear Emily’s prolific talent as a poet and you see how unfair it was for her to have it noticed because she is a woman. Dickinson wrote 1800 poems in her lifetime, many of which were written on little pieces of paper and even on the back of recipes! Olnek shoots them for you to see in the film.

This is a much lighter portrayal of Emily Dickinson than Cynthia Nixon gave in A Quiet Passion. Molly Shannon makes her Emily more open, passionate, human and even funny. Emily is considered an odd duck who is a spinster and a recluse who, later in life, wore the same white dress every day. No matter, few people saw her anyway.

The cinematography by Any Stypko presents the magnificent Victorian homes Emily and Sue lived in next door to each other. The period costumes completes the scene and details life in the 1800’s in and around Amherst, Massachusetts.

Emily Dickinson was labeled a recluse, but this film exposes shocking behavior for those times behind her confines. The film is lethargic in pace and Molly Shannon’s comedic talents are more evident in the beginning of the film. The flashbacks into Emily’s childhood show her love for Susan Gilbert from the start, which only grew more intimate and passionate throughout their lifetime. This film shows the meaning of love through her poems, no matter what your sexual orientation. 

Writer/Director Madeleine Olnek did her research. The ups and downs of publishing poems during her lifetime and after she died may be the most fascinating revelation of this film.There is incredible detail in the material Olnek has gleaned from actual letters sent between the two Dickinsons,  Emily and her brother’s wife, Susan Gilbert Dickinson (Susan Ziegler). Olnek makes clear Emily’s prolific talent as a poet and you see how unfair it was for her to have it noticed because she is a woman. Dickinson wrote 1800 poems in her lifetime, many of which were written on little pieces of paper and even on the back of recipes!

This is a much lighter portrayal of Emily Dickinson than Cynthia Nixon gave in A Quiet Passion. Molly Shannon makes her Emily more open, passionate, human and even funny. Emily is considered an odd duck who is a spinster and a recluse who, later in life, wore the same white dress every day. No matter, few people saw her anyway.

The cinematography by Any Stypko presents the magnificent Victorian homes Emily and Sue lived in next door to each other. The period costumes completes the scene and details life in the 1800’s in and around Amherst, Massachusetts.

Only a handful of her poems were published until after her death. The film shows she acknowledged their lack of acceptance and wished to have them published posthumously. Olnek puts lines from several poems on the screen as Emily or Sue are reading them aloud expressing their inner most feelings. Emily always seems to be seeking approval from prospective publishers or the object of her affection, Sue. 

There is profound love and expression between the sisters-in law in these letters, and about their secret relationship that spanned decades starting in childhood. When Sue marries Emily’s brother, Austin (Kevin Seal), they live right next door! The homes are magnificent old mansions and convenient to their running between the houses.

The film often devolves into a farce of a drawing room comedy with their giggly spontaneous clandestine sexual encounters as if they know they’re getting away with something. After Emily’s brother and Susan are married, even their children seem fully aware of how close their Aunt and mother are, knowing not to bother them when they’re together behind closed doors. 

Olnek portrays Austin as a cartoon character who seems unaware of the close relationship between his wife and his sister. He takes up with another very animated character, Mabel, (Amy Seimetz) a self-proclaimed expert on poetry who takes an interest in more than Emily’s work. Mabel becomes Austin’s mistress and the scenes where they get it on are comical, especially seeing Emily’s curious reactions to the noises of their lovemaking from other parts of the house. 

After Emily’s death, Mabel cashed in by giving lectures to women on poetry. Discovering Emily’s poetic letters, she took it upon herself to erase Sue’s name to hide their gay relationship to make it more acceptable to publish. Susan’s daughter finally published a book dedicated to the love she understood between Sue and Emily in 1914. in 1998, Sue’s name, which had been erased, was restored using spectrographic technologies and published in the New York Times. 

This is a beautiful film with a lot of ugly characters. Olnek exposes the injustice toward a repressed woman who would not be accepted for her talent or sexual orientation. If you can be patient with the slow pace, you will learn some interesting aspects that shine a light on the multi-faceted life of this troubled American genius. 

Greenwich Entertainment    84 minutes    PG-13

from Movies and Shakers http://bit.ly/2GzpTTZ

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