Tuesday 26 June 2018
Wild Nights with Emily - Edinburgh International Film Festival
Last year we had A Quiet Passion, director Terence Davies' version of Emily Dickinson's life, this year it is the turn of feminist director Madeline Olnek. In Wild Nights with Emily Olnek focuses on Dickinson (Molly Shannon)'s romantic friendship / lesbian affair with her childhood friend Susan (Susan Ziegler) who later married Emily's brother Austin (Kevin Seal) so the two women could be close for the whole of their lives.
The film is a reimagining of Dickinson's life, rather than a journalistic telling of known facts, but the truthfulness of it is underpinned by passionate letters written from Emily to Susan. In the hands of Mabel Todd (Amy Seimetz) Dickinson's first publisher (and Austin's mistress) all mention of Susan was erased from the letters but recent infra red studies have revealed Susan's name. In the film Mabel is shown giving a lecture after Dickinson's death in which she presents the poet as a spinster recluse, the stereotype that most people have had of her ever since. Other scenes show that Mabel did know about the relationship between Emily and Susan, but wanted to hide it. It was Susan's daughter who was the first to speak about the nature of the relationship between her mother and Emily but she wasn't such a self publicist as Mabel and wasn't able to counteract the latter's misrepresentation of Dickinson.
Another misconception we have always been lead to believe is that Dickinson actively chose not to be published. This film however shows her arguing with a male publisher who won't publish her because not only is she a woman but she doesn't write about stereotypically female concerns and even worse her poetry doesn't rhyme!
Ultimately this is an entertaining film with plenty to say about the difficulties of being a female writer in the nineteenth century and offering insights into the hidden passionate private life of one of the world's most famous poets.
Wild Nights with Emily is screening as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival at 1800, Thursday 28 June at Odeon and 1555 Saturday 30 June at Cineworld. You can book tickets here.
You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:
Patrick - endearing romcom featuring an adorable and very naughty pug.
Postacards from the 48% - documentary about Brexit
We the Animals - growing up in a rural idyll doesn't guarantee a happy childhood
Island of the Hungry Ghosts - meditation on migration and detention on Christmas Island
Kayak to Klemtu - a young First Nations woman kayaks to her home town to protest against a pipeline
Supa Modo - a super-hero film with a difference
Becoming Animal - meditative documentary about the human relationship with nature
Science Fair - documentary about brilliant young scientists attending the International Science and Engineering Fair
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of this film.