Like Sunset Song, however, A Quiet Passion witnesses a reversal of its coloration: here, as Emily ages and becomes more embittered, the previously dominant colors are evacuated from the film. The protagonist herself takes to dressing only in white (a sartorial practice the real-life Dickinson famously adopted), and the house itself seems to become drained of its touches of color. In one striking scene, the frame is even invaded by an alien rufous glow as the full extent of Emily’s capacity for callous misanthropy becomes clear to her. The two films are also united by their shared opposition between interior and exterior scenes, each possessing distinct lighting schemes: the flickering, Vermeer-like luster of the lamp-lit chambers contrasts, in both films, to the dazzling refulgence of the outside world. Throughout Davies’ work, exteriors represent emancipation, interiors the oppressive restrictions of society and the family — although in Dickinson’s case such confinement is, it seems, primarily self-imposed. Windows, the boundaries between these two realms, are a motif in all his films, and his latest diptych is no different. Characters gaze out of them in longing, curiosity, or fear, while dust-speckled light floods in through them, bringing warmth and vitality. But whereas Chris revels in the moments of liberation she snatches when dreamily wandering through a field, Emily eventually shuts herself off from the menaces of the external world, with its mortality and suffering, and retreats to the inner world of her poetry.


The full article appears in Even no. 6, published in spring 2017.