“A Quiet Passion” is like Davies’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Before last week’s trip to Berlin, I had never attended a major international film festival. (New York doesn’t count—it’s a self-described “festival of festivals,” featuring many movies that have already premièred.) For good reason, these festivals are not part of my regular rounds: I usually write about movies that are available to many readers, because there’s a tease built into festival reviews—let me tell you about some wonderful movies that I’ve seen and that you can’t, or, at least, not yet.
But, this time, I can report on a one-off screening that, far from being a tease, may help to resolve one. Last week, while writing in the magazine about the New York première (at Lincoln Center) of the British director Terence Davies’s superb new film, “Sunset Song,” I added that the meticulous filmmaker, who is now seventy, is picking up the pace of production, having already completed another feature, “A Quiet Passion,” a biopic about Emily Dickinson, starring Cynthia Nixon. What I didn’t know at the time was that, because of fortuitous scheduling, I’d get to attend a press screening of “A Quiet Passion” at the Berlin Film Festival. I’m thrilled to say that it’s an absolute drop-dead masterwork.
Not that I don’t have other paradigms, but the Scorsese one seems to fit again: “A Quiet Passion” is like Davies’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.” It displays an urgent outpouring of pent-up creative energy from a director well advanced in his career but tapping into ideas, impulses, and talents that somehow have been kept under wraps throughout his decades of artistic activity....