Hundreds of scholars and biographers have tried to explain the life and work of Emily Dickinson, but the famously reclusive poet remains an enigma. In Loaded Gun: Life, and Death, and Dickinson, stumped filmmaker Jim Wolpaw uses a decidedly unorthodox approach to create a documentary about the writer whose beautiful, haunting, and cryptic poetry has never quite squared with her reputation as a sensitive spinster. Wolpaw’s efforts to illuminate this esoteric subject — more than 150 years after her death — yield some hilariously frustrating results.
Wolpaw begins his film by employing the standard documentary methods, interviewing historians, literature professors, U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, and even an opinionated trio of psychotherapists. “How did this woman, who was apparently too sensitive to go out in the world, write about the world with such power, precision and presence?” Wolpaw wonders.
Enlisting the help of this unlikely team of academics, actresses and artists, Loaded Gun dissects the meaning of its puzzling title poem, speculates about Dickinson’s possible love affairs, and recasts the poet in an array of contradictory personas: Emily as sexualized seductress, anxiety-ridden basket case, sarcastic comedian, reluctant interview subject, childlike genius, tormented spinster — even a talented second baseman. Who was Emily Dickinson, really? Perhaps it is this unanswerable question that makes her such a captivatingly modern mystery, inspiring legions of fans that include poetry-spouting English majors, rock bands and tattoo addicts. As Loaded Gun shows, Dickinson’s greatest legacies may simply be the strength of her words and her persistent refusal to be easily defined.
- Jim WolpawProducer
- Steven E. GentileProducer