Movies: A QUIET PASSION and THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE

A QUIET PASSION tells the story of poet Emily Dickinson.

A QUIET PASSION tells the story of poet Emily Dickinson.  It’s a visually beautiful movie.  If you enjoy costume dramas, you’ll love it, set as it is in the time period before and after the Civil War.

But if you walked into the movie not knowing too much about Emily Dickinson, as I did, this film may very well leave you with more questions about her life than answers.  It seemed to leave some essential something about the story out.  Apparently Emily, played by Cynthia Nixon, lived in a college town, though that was never illustrated.  She said she was too devoted to her family to ever want to marry, yet while they got along well, at least most of the time, they didn’t seem to be so wonderful that a gal would want to stay with them forever.

Apparently, I just found out, Emily was increasingly reclusive, though I also didn’t fully realize that while watching the movie; in it she seemed to circulate, though not particularly widely, until she became ill, when it wasn’t practical to do so.  How many women in the 1800’s went all over the place, though?  If I was supposed to realize she had an aversion to leaving the house, all I can say is that I didn’t.

Emily also had a lot of doubts about religion, God, souls, and so on, and didn’t want to attend church – which in those days was considered scandalous – yet did an about-face about religion and propriety when her married brother had a flirtation with a married woman.

I was left sitting there, during several scenes, just wondering, “Huh?”

On the other hand, a friend who does know a lot about Emily Dickinson was with me at the theater, thought the movie was wonderful, informative, fantastic, and wanted to go back and see it again!

THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE, on the other hand, makes a lot more sense.  Jessica Chastain has the title role in a movie based on the true story of a zookeeper and his wife who saved 300 Jews in Warsaw during the Holocaust.  And what a spread they had where they could hide them: an entire zoo!

This story follows the book of the same name very well, without too many Hollywood embellishments.  It mostly sticks to the facts, which are dramatic enough in themselves.  It was interesting on several levels: the animals, the rescuers, the hidden Jews, the bombings, the creepy Nazis and their menacing interactions with the Polish characters.  I especially enjoyed the llama who followed the zookeeper’s wife around the zoo when the animals were still in residence (before a Nazi removed most of them to his zoo in Munich) and a scene where Chastain assists in the birth of a baby elephant.

One problem with the movie: the English-speaking actors spoke their English lines with Polish accents.  At times, this made the dialogue hard to understand.  Having actors speak with heavy accents in Hollywood movies not set in America is a trend that I wish would lessen a bit: Hello, the audience can get it that the movie’s set in Poland without having to strain to decipher the words being said.

It’s still a good movie, and showcases a courageous couple.  THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE is worth seeing.

Jessica Chastain does a great job as THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE.

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