LOADED GUN: Life, and Death, and Dickinson

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andreas laszlo
sthlm sweden
Policeman Wiggum (the simsons) way of thinking: "she said GUN - she's suspect - take her away & gimme two donuts".....
Between two "well chosen words" you 'll find "this something" you only kan say that way - that is a very little part of the way poetry comunicates us ny ...ideas...which only kan be done that way.
When I saw one of psycolgists -extracting- words from the context in order to explain better....o, Gosh whot a shock.
A poem is similar to a rope.
It is maded of parts which are not strong.
Talking about poems\poets Emily included is similar to destroying a rope & proving that there is nothing strong or special.
About funny rolling heads ...train accident ...something like this.
Imagine a puritan victorian lady or gentleman dressed in almost "strait-jackets" deadly serious faces; all this in some Chattanooga-choo-choo or Chihuahua-express shaking like stupid dolls when accident happens & somebody ..lost his head.
Rolling the "still-serious" head is for me too funny too & I'm not a sadist.
When around you Everybody Allways is Totally concentrated in imitating each other & showing up a false image of being & behaving "by the books of written or unwritten rules" you must see the funny side of the situation for not to go deadly bored or mad.
She was allergic to stupid people & their rules making each other & everybody around her deeply unhappy & unable to see to appreciate "the big everything" around whot happens only once:nature,people & your time here to enjoy all this.
She was (directly) Zen enlighted.
She understood the "suchness" of "all that" that we all could experience if we kan bee & see without man made rules foe a while.
If you are sensitive enough your life also is a loaded ....canon. Now whot to do with?
(show the idiot the moon - he will look at your finger -chinese proverb)
Stop looking at her fingers - listen to her.

Hackensack, NJ
I think the documantary was insightful in an askew fashion which is what made it interesting. The pompous English professor shoud've been edited out though. He served no purpose other than to poo on everyone else and their ideas. How can someone who litters on the pursuit of Emily have any real perspective on her. I imagine this man's classes to be among the most dogmatic in existence. He has no fashion sense either but that's beside the point.

Philadelphia, PA
Dickinson's speaker, her "supposed person" seems to be addressing her critics, showing herself as a small person thinking great thoughts, claiming a sort of sovereignty over life because of being able to savor it and define it in such lavish detail. Even her musings on death seem to display her fearlessness, such as when imagining her own death. Compare how often most people willingly visit the subject, or with what frame of mind, even the very religious.
This is what appeals to us. we have in Emily a voice to tell ourselves or the world that wer'e OK. our loneliness or difference or separateness gives us a chance to see things others don't.
Our modern world doesn't much resemble nineteenth century New England; but, isolation is with us more than ever. A rapid pace of life,

Philadelphia, PA
P.S. It was your film that got me started. I read three poems my entire fifty years before seeing those girls audition. By coincidence I saw Habbeger's book at the library a few days later and got hooked good. Thanks.

Philadelphia, PA
the pace of change, the complexity of life can make us feel alone.the most well-adjusted person will be isolated by circunstance from others from time to time and misunderstood. This is why we like Emily's poetry. "I never saw the sea" she once said. Yet she would use the word, "sea" to wonderful effect. How? She had an ear and eye to detect the meaning and power of words on their speakers and hearers and writers. Her expertise was with words and not the things they represent, hence no need to actually see them.

To anyone who reads this im looking for more information about Emily Dickinson personal life(romantic affairs and who were the men if there was any information about them. Emily life was publish but know exactly describes her motive about her men problem so if anyone reads this can you please e-mail me @ mic_hell08701@yahoo.com

thank you so much for your help

Oakland, California
I'm disappointed that Jim Wolpaw didn't use this opportunity to challenge two things: 1. The misconception that the poem "[Wild Nights - Wild Nights]" is about having a "wild night" rather than finding comfort (like the stillness and lack of danger of a boat "in Port") in someone else, erotically or otherwise, making wild nights outside bearable. 2. Billy Collins's utter lack of respect towards Dickinson and her work for even suggesting, even jokingly, about having sex with Emily Dickinson. Surely sexualizing a female poet for one's own need to have some sort of relationship with her poetry (or even less realistically, herself) would be a fine point of contention to explore in this film? Instead, his poem is given a prominent position.

Robert Mann
Oneida, New York
Some of the comments seemed a bit shallow or far-fetched. Some, such as noting the pervasiveness of pain in her work, were well-taken, although is it not the painful, delightful, and often absurd combination of pain and beauty in human existence that she often reports?

The reference to newspaper reports of great railroad accidents and workplace decapitations brought to mind a newspaper headline that once jolted me: "Arson Suspected at School -- Students Grilled".

I was happy to hear "new" Dickenson poems, such as "The Brain", which I found to resonate with the "Big Mind" (or "Buddha mind") of Zen master Shunryu Suzuki (whose new biography is called "Crooked Cucumber"). Indeed, I think self-honesty and the intention to face reality head on permeate both the Buddhist view of the world and Dickensen's.

Heaven Lashley
Weslaco, Texas
I admired the creators' desire to penetrate the person, to recreate the person of Emily Dickenson. It reminds me of one of my poems entitled "Now I understand Don McLean" in which I reflect on the singer's fixation on Vincent VanGogh and my fixation on timeless humans.

I was equally frustrated with the people in the documentary and the superficial depictions of Miss Dickenson.

Perhaps if there were some way to isolate a group of agrophobic female intellectuals one would have much more success of recreating the person.

It would be interested to watch a follow-up with various people with varying psycholical states and their re-enactment of Emily Dickenson.

susan c.
memphis, tn
i realized as i was watching the film that i understood emily dickinson more than i expected to.i noticed that we share similiar thoughts. i have been in my room writing poems and painting... i've never felt more complete, not effected by the thoughts of others, alone to find myself... it's strange how much we are like everybody else, afraid to search within ourselves but instead looking to others to find the aswers of who we are or who we should be. i don't see emily as strange, she seems to know more about herself than others know about themselves. it's nice to know that such a person like emily once existed and is still very much effecting the world as if she was still here.

andy diggs
memphis tn.
What was the poem that Julie Harris read? It seemed almost like a eulogy, the way it was edited. During the sequence in which the narrator talks about the death of Emily's nephew (I think? Can you e-mail me the Title?

The program was very enriching and unique in the way it was constructed.It gave me a new understanding of how complex and intense a personality she was. And how Emily's poems were so ahead of her time, even today. I think she was from Mars.

Andrea Koval
Little Egg Harbor, NJ
To Jim Walpaw and Steve Gentile:

As a woman and a person inclined to escaping into her imagination as an alternative to reality, I feel that I can give you some insight to some of the questions you asked of Emily Dickinson. Firstly, you asked if Emily was in love with Death. This is a complex question because Death isn't an object that is separate from us. Death is a part of everyone already. It's your last action, but can take you on at any time. Death is an action, like an implosive possibility waiting for a motivation. It's hard to be in love with something that is already a part of you because it doesn't really offer anything different. Emily may have been "in love" with the idea of death, in that the fantasy of leaving her earthly situation created an escape from the objects and and materials of the world and led Emily into the world of her words and the flow and rhythm of her poetry.

In addition, the same answer can be applied to your question of "what is a wild night?". Death would be a wild night for Emily. Playing with death, living in temporary plane between material life and spiritual existance, would have been a wild night for Emily. Dying, I'm sure, was appealing to Emily because of what was beyond material life. I think she may have found that being alive has limitations, whereas being dead leaves you with nothing but ideas, which seemed to be Emily's favorite mode of entertainment.

I'm not sure that I would like to understand why decapitation is so funny, but as far as your inquiries about the amusement of decapitation, I think that Emily found this to be so funny because of it's abruptness and strange finality. One of the actesses had a point when she said that decapitation is amusing "because we're so used to seeing people with heads". She's right. We Are used to seeing people with heads. Once you loose your head, it's never going back on again. You'd also be dead; there'd be no more for you, and it wouldn't even matter because you don't need a head after you die. In this way, death by decapitation is funny, and not tragic.

On the other hand, the pain caused by heartbreak, or greed, or jealousy, or any other worldly emotion, is more lasting and constant than the abrupt pain of decapitation. A broken heart never heals, but doesn't get the privlege and release of death, one must stick around and endure. Life is like a loaded gun because of it's power to kill over and over again; to cause tragic suffering in successful succession with no finality. Life doesn't have the power to die, only a material object can cause that. Emily would have liked to die, but her human heart bound her to earth. One can't choose to die naturally as a human, but Emily wanted to because the world is weak and carries too many possibilities of painful endurance.

Nashville, TN
I commend anyone willing to take on the complexities of Emily Dickinson, yet I was rather unhappy with the "Loaded Gun." Unfortunately I stumbled onto the film somewhere in the middle, so I missed the very beginning, but I feel I got the message of the peice. I found myself fighting internally with the actresses, and I wonder if they had done any more than memorize her poems. They seemed to take absolutely nothing from her words. I greatly appreciated the narrators comments in regards to the badly represented Dickinsons, giving me the impression he felt the same way.

Also, in regards to the headless men in factories, please do not confuse the two different means of expression she used. Letters and poetry were two very different means of expression to her. Her letters were to communicate with people, her poetry was only for herself. She was a purist, "publication is the auction block of the mind" to her remember. She wrote because she had to write, because she was full of images she needed to somehow express. She had freedom in her poetry she could not have in the patriarchal, religously corrupt and war ravaged society she inhabited. SHe is allowed to poke fun at other writers (namely journalists) without affecting her own poetic sentiments.

Sorry about the ranting...I tend to go overboard when it comes to ED.

I could write so much more. Please continue to make such thought and opinion producing films.

Bernadette Hackett
I was intriqued by the way this film was put together. it reminded me that artists and poets are not simple sould but very complex ones and the filmmaker really brought this out by the way he organized this film. it was multi layered and I loved it.

Philip Jenks
Portland OR
As someone IN the film, perhaps my views are biased. The film did not meet its potential. While keen observations were made about Dickinson - her poems are sinister among other things, not all flowers and gardens. How important it is to recognize all humans as being multiple - and equal. Dickinson achieves this. That being said, the film took a condescending view towards many, practically all. This postironic arrogance then innoculates itself from criticism by implying any criticism is "taking it all too seriously." So, the film is contradictory. We are told to take Dickinson MORE seriously in many respects, while simultaneously, everyone else around her is a sham or a spectacle. Not funny.

Kelly Thaw
Rochester NY
The Emily auditions made the documenary seem like a spin-off of American Idol. Unfortunately the producers never surpassed the silliness of the auditions with their own attempts at defining Dickinson. I did not mind so much that the movie ended with a showdown between two opposing aspects of the poet, but why were they wearing knee length dresses and Birkinstock sandals?

claire vreeland
winsted, ct. 06098
I was amused at the interpretation of Emily's words about 'decapitated men and factories' said to be a preoccupation with the more violent aspects of death. Would it not, rather be, something seen from a train window, at a different angle of vision, so that the tops of people and things were cut off. . . why otherwise would she have include factories? To enjoy Dickinson's poems does not require deep ponderings of the 'mysteries' but rather a relaxing into the rhythm of the words. . .pure enjoyment.

Oklahoma City
This film fell far short of its potential for me, largely due to lacking production values and unimaginative directing. There was also much lost in chaotic sequencing, hardly fitting. Harsh, bright lighting? White walls behind the models? Non-sequitur lapses into jazz imrov? Mood lighting could have added some much needed depth as counterpoint to attempts at frivolity.

A challenging project well deserving of a re-make. Not expensive, just more polished and flowing, like a poem. And if you are going to photograph read-along text, include the entire phrasing so I don't feel like I have mad cow disease.

I kept picturing Ruth Buzzi from the old Laugh-In as the perfect model, or Christina Ricci. Elvira? There must be some desperately lonely goths still around somewhere.

Another point missing was, gee what else was going on in the 1860's that could have been depressing to a delicate soul obsessed with death? Oh yeah, a Civil War!

All in all, an ambitious project well worth seeing - once. Don't give up.

morristown, tn
I was very frustrated with Loaded Gun. I felt you missed the boat!!!! I don't think she was a sadist. I feel it was an attempt to mock the depictions of others insensitivity to death. She seems to have been very sensitive to death issues. It may have caused her to be synical of traditional religion. To me she seems to be very secure in a different philosphy. She may have been more content with her own thoughts than sharing them with company and could have been uncomfortable sharing her philosophy with company because it was unconventional. I think Master may have been God. This did seem to come later in life and be associated with a preacher in some way. I also feel she may have been criticized in childhood. The chipped plate incident was significant to me. The humorous remark about reminding herself not to use it shows a very personal dark, dry wit. As I said before I felt very frustrated with the frivilous attitude and direction the film took. The only person I felt had a true grip on Emily was the biographer. I would hate to see a film of her life put together with what I feel is such a flagrant lack of integrity.

There is so little that combines the written, spoken and visual to communicate to our daughters of the 21st century about feminists asking the same questions the last two centuries. This was such a perfect presentation. My frustration is that I can't order it, send it to her as a dvd for her to watch on her laptop.

We must combine the past and the present with the future. If I can give it to her, in her medium, she will reach back and understand hertory. Obviously, there is a crisis in our world related to gender: let's just go forward.


new york ny
It's so easy to put an artist such as Dickenson in a dusty mental corner, to leave her poems on a dusty bookshelf after the last day of college, and to promise to think about it all at some other time.

Thank you, Jim, Steve and all the crew for letting us think and feel about Emily fresh and on film...and to laugh while doing it.

Cambridge, MA
I've seen this film and recommend it especially to people who expect it to be stuffy or silly. While poking fun at the very stuffiness and silliness that so often sink films about great artists, this very funny film provides a fresh and delightful experience of Dickinson's poems AND leaves the viewer with a deeper appreciation of her range and power. Don't miss it.

Robert W. Hill
Marietta, GA
Nor is Emily Dickinson captured in her poems . . .

Really, I have spent my career studying mostly poetry, but the ideas that a good movie (a) can capture anybody's whole life, (b) supplant the work of a great poet; or that poetry can (c) capture anybody's whole life, (d) supplant the work of a great/good movie . . . Silliness.

Are we still and forever to clamber the rock walls of our academic solipsism, or shiver fearfully in the tabernacle of the holy "MLY"? (Would this be a tri-grammaton?)

The PBS movie looks like a good effort. We'll see if it's a good movie, and soon we'll all know what it is and what it isn't.

My goodness, such stuffiness in a PBS message board! Incroyable!

Mary M
Warwick, RI
I'm intrigued.. Life, and Death, and Dickinson sounds fascinating! James Wolpaw is also a quirky, but rather good filmmaker.. I'll be on tenterhooks until December 16th.

Have to say, I was losing faith in PBS, but this gives me something to hope for.

L MacNeil
Norwell, MA
Of course, Emily Dickinson defies definition. She is a mystery, as expansive, as vast, as Shakespeare. Much as I applaud your objective, especially as it calls greater attention to her work, and much as I admire your efforts, I must protest. Like Shakespeare she can only be defined (alas, no, only be relished) by her remarkable words, and visual dramatic techniques only distract us from the inexpressible power of that incomparable language. Emily cannot be captured on the screen any more than life itself.

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