Solon Papadopoulos’s elegant, informative and moving documentary, of which BIFF is proud to present the world premiere, could hardly be improved on as an introduction to Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion. Papadopoulos produced Passion together with his partner in Hurricane Films, Roy Boulter, just as they did Davies’ previous films: Time and the City and Sunset Song.
Before he ever met Davies, however, Papadopoulos was an established producer and director of TV documentaries, and his portrait of Emily Dickinson makes it clear why. We strongly recommend you see it as a double bill, with the documentary establishing the factual background to Davies’ very personal film.
As My Letter to the World makes clear, Dickinson - only a fraction of whose work was published in her lifetime - was, as a writer, far from the norms of 19th-century poetry. Writing on scraps of paper, the backs of bills and anything else that came to hand, her work had a musicality and depth that presages the century to come. With a narration and poem readings by Cynthia Nixon, the film uses a traditional talking-heads approach for the scholarly assessments of Dickinson’s work, but Papadopoulos elsewhere allows himself free rein to show the colours, sounds and intense internal emotions - the quiet passion - that drove her work.