June 19, 2015

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A movie crew took over the grounds of the Dickinson Museum on June 15

By Nate Gordon, Office of Communications intern

This past week, the grounds of the Emily Dickinson Museum served as the set for A Quiet Passion, an upcoming biopic about the introverted poet. The museum was closed for filming on June 15 and reopened three days later.

Open to the public since 2003, the Dickinson Museum includes two houses that were owned by Dickinson’s family and are now owned by the College.

Produced by British filmmaker Terence Davies, A Quiet Passion stars Zero Dark Thirty actress Jennifer Ehle and Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon as younger and older versions of Dickinson, respectively. Keith Carradine plays Dickinson’s father, Edward.

While there have been documentaries and short films made about Dickinson and her poetry, this will be the first commercial movie about the poet.

What also separates this film—which is expected to be released sometime next year—from previous ones is its target audience, according to Jane Wald, executive director of the museum. “[The filmmakers] hope to reach a very broad general audience and interest people who may not be familiar with Emily Dickinson at all, yet,” she explained.

Much of the film was shot in Belgium this spring on a set that included a replica of the interior of Dickinson’s home.

Although only exterior scenes were filmed in Amherst, Wald believes it was important for a part of the film to be shot on the grounds that Dickinson walked in the mid-1800s.

“[The Homestead] reflects one of Emily Dickinson’s own values, which is sense of place,” Wald said. “She wrote about place and she identified with Amherst, herself, and ultimately, with her family property. On a practical level, I think it demonstrates the commitment of the filmmakers to a serious effort.”

In addition to the museum, the crew will film scenes at Amherst’s Wildwood Cemetery. Dickinson and her family were buried at West Cemetery, but Wildwood will be used for logistical purposes. Scenes will also take place at the Pelham Historical Society Museum.

Barry Roberts, president of the Amherst Business Improvement District and owner of Muddy Brook Farm, took part in the film as well. He dressed in a top hat and period costume for scenes in which he guided one of his own horse-drawn carriages around town.

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