A Quiet PassionBlu-ray Disc - 2017
From the critics
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Yes. What is it that you are suffering from?
- An acute case of evangelism.
And the Germans are wonderful in music.
-That's true. English, thank heaven, is not a language that can be sung.
But, Aunt Elizabeth, you love your hymn tunes.
-Hymns are different. They have absolutely nothing to do with music.
I'm sure your verse is equal to your talent, Aunt.
-If I were clever enough, I should probably take offence at that dubious compliment.
Poems are my solace for the eternity which surrounds us all.
And what of vice? Surely vice is only virtue in disguise.
Oh, cherish your ignorance, Aunt. You never know when you will need it.
-Edward! Your children astound me. They ought to be sent to their rooms and pummelled.
I'm not afraid of death, Emily. Nor should you be. If we keep our souls in readiness for God, there can be no fear. He will smooth our way. I shall pray for you all. And remember, keep atheism at bay. And watch the clock that ticks for us all.
But surely they will forgive you.
-Ah, but will I forgive them?
I believe all women should have the same educational advantages as men. But ecclesiastical history? It sounds as dreary as Paradise.
Do you fear death?
- No. But I fear Heaven. I'm afraid it will seem like an anticlimax. Perfection usually does.
And what of Hell?
-I'm sure that will be even duller than Heaven. That will be the agony.
Going to church is like going to Boston. You only enjoy it after you've gotten home.
When the new pastor does arrive, you must point him out to me.
-So that you, too, may be saved?
No. So that I will know whom to avoid.
Do you guard your soul, Emily?
- As best as I am able, sir.
And Hell? What of Hell?
- Avoid it if I can. Endure it if I must.
Father Time knocks at my door also.
-And what precautions do you take?
I contrive never to be at home when he calls. All women should aspire to that state of readiness. No. Women should only aspire to be younger than their waistlines. Then the unpleasant topic of age becomes almost irrelevant.
Your soul is no trivial matter.
-I agree, Father.
That's why I'm so meticulous in guarding its independence.
This is my third commencement ball, and not a hint of romance.
-Do you suppose that men are frightened of a woman who teaches and is used to her independence? Men are supposed to be fearless, aren't they?
-In war, yes. In religion, always. In love, never.
Did you say something to him to shock him?
-Only that I'd just finished reading Wuthering Heights. And he was scandalised.
Had he read it?
- No. So I told him that to condemn a novel he had not read would be like going to Sodom or Gomorrah and being disappointed that neither were Philadelphia.
And you have your poetry.
-But you have a life.
I have a routine. It is God's one concession to a no-hoper.
-Does nothing give you solace?
For those of us who live minor lives, and are deprived of... a particular kind of love, we know best how to starve.
Your honesty is sublime.
-In the long term, honesty is not the best policy.
- I prefer to call it diplomacy. That way, one can turn a tactical defeat into a victory.
Who proposed that?
- Oh, I don't know. Probably George Washington as he was crossing the Delaware. The wrong way.
I can't imagine myself beyond my family. Amongst strangers.
-You are a strange creature, with more depth, I suspect, than any of us.
How can you say that? I haven't demonstrated that at all.
-Oh, my dear, you don't demonstrate, you reveal.
I must have someone with a sense of humour, someone who can laugh at the world. Taking life seriously is the shortest route to disaster.
-And have you found such a one?
Someone has found me. A Mr Wilder, a Professor of Mathematics. And if he can find comedy in a vulgar fraction, I'm his.
- But do you love him?
Love? I cannot say. It's a very beguiling idea. They even say it exists.
-But how will you know? What if you make an error?
If he is a bad choice, I'll have him killed quietly and tell everyone he died of some sort of algebraic shock.
-I hope you will be happy.
That cannot be guaranteed. I'll settle for consideration.
- That sounds like surrender.
No, it's practicality.
-And who knows? Perhaps love will come in its wake.
Then I can relax into smugness.
- You could never be smug.
Life catches you out, Emily. In the end, we all become the thing we most dread.
Ridicule is not the way to any woman's heart, sir. Least of all mine.
-It was meant sincerely. Or should I judge beauty by the common standard?
Any standard may be common. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt.
-Perhaps contempt breeds familiarity. At any rate, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
That is no longer true, sir. For that truism has become a clich.
-Miss Dickinson, you are just a little too sharp.
And you, sir, are a little too quick to play the martyr.
But a person may hope.
-If you're too quick to hope, you'll always be disappointed.
And if I am too quick to despair, what then?
-Then you will be too slow to hope.
There is, I suppose, always posterity.
-But posterity is as comfortless as God.
That sounds like despair.
-No, it's bitterness. Besides... a posthumous reputation is only for those who, when living, weren't worth remembering.
Still... Ah! To be racked by success!
-But I would like some approval before I die.
He proposed to me by letter, so if the marriage is unhappy, I shall blame the US mail. Always conform. Keep disobedience secret. Be outwardly docile, but in your heart, you can be as revolutionary as you like.
- But isn't that hypocrisy?
Of course it is. But in America, we cherish it. We think it makes us incorruptible. You must never confuse the outer with the inner piety. Only Episcopalians do that.
-But I am rebellious and far from the grace of God. You are closer to Him than anyone I know.
Always look below the surface, Emily, but don't be afraid of what you find there.
- Then I shall confront everything.
Don't be too radical, Emily. Radicals don't thrive in this country.
- But you are a radical.
But I'll eventually conform. For the sake of peace or a quiet life.
We outgrow love like other things and put it in the drawer, Till it an antique fashion shows Like costumes grandsires wore.
You could say thank you for my publishing some of your verse.
-For that, sir, you have more than my thanks. You have my gratitude. But, sir...
you have altered some of my punctuation.
Good Lord. What's a hyphen here or a semi-colon there?
- To many, nothing. But, to me, the alteration of my punctuation marks is very hard to endure.
Then I apologise. I was merely trying to make your meaning clearer to my readers.
-Clarity is one thing, sir, obviousness quite another. The only person qualified to interfere with the poet's work is the poet herself. From anyone else, it feels like an attack.
Admiration always masks envy.
-What does envy mask?
Oh, that masks admiration.
A man may love and then cool, but it is not that way with me.
-But you cannot be equal to a man.
If I cannot have equality, then I want nothing of love. I will not be so confined
that I cannot breathe.
-But a rebellious spirit invites only retribution.
Then I will be silent in my rebellion, so that no one will know what my true feelings are.
- God will know.
But I will not be married to God.
- But you are His possession and answerable to Him.
He will know of my struggle and be merciful. And if He does not exist, then I will be eternally free.
Perhaps next time, Emily, when you wish to say goodbye to a guest, you might consider using semaphore.
-There aren't enough flags to say what I wish to say.
You mistake confidence for narcissism, and womanly reticence for dullness.
-Whatever else can be said of Mrs Todd, no one could ever accuse her of reticence.
Or does one only require reticence in a wife?
My wife is perfectly happy.
- Yes, of course. I'm sure she sees infidelity, when accompanied by Schubert, as a delightful pastime. A kind of musical adultery.
Real artists cannot be confined by narrow convention.
-Real artists don't deceive themselves or their public.
I once hoped that Mabel would go up in a balloon, then explode.
-Oh, Vinnie, if that is the extent of your wickedness, your sainthood is assured, explosions notwithstanding.
Life is cruel.
- And cruelty knows no morality.
People are not saints, Emily. You judge too harshly because you judge too highly.
-Lowering a standard is the first excuse for every villainy.
And keeping to one high principle is the last refuge of the intolerant.
-And what of integrity? Austin was once fierce in his defence of it, and now it seems an encumbrance to be easily put aside!
Integrity, if taken too far, can be equally ruthless.
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