Terence Davies, who directed “The House of Mirth,” portrays the life of poet Emily Dickinson in a joint U.K./Belgium production starring Cynthia Nixon (Miranda on “Sex & the City”). Jennifer Ehle co-stars as her sister Vinnie and Keith Carradine portrays Emily’s cranky, overbearing father.
Living in self-imposed isolation from the world in Amherst, Massachusetts, Emily seems quite attached to her immediate nuclear family and unwilling or unable to look beyond those parameters. Therefore, she pours out her thoughts and feelings in poetry that lives on to this day.
Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Milay were always my personal favorites during my study for a Master’s in Literature. Therefore, I looked forward to the use of “I heard a fly buzz when I died,” since there were multiple scenes of death (mother, father, Emily), usually portrayed in somewhat grisly detail. I was disappointed when, following the seizures that beset Emily (who suffered from the incurable Bright’s Disease), the poem used was “Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me.” Also used was the favorite, “I’m nobody, Who are you? Are you nobody too?”
The lighting and costuming and period sets are wonderful (think “Downton Abbey”) but a grim tone pervades the movie as Emily struggles to come to grips with all those she loves leaving her, whether friends or family.
Lots of onscreen deaths, seizures and general unhappiness of mood and event.