Emma’s character, Vivian Bearing, recites the Sonnet X in the movie Wit, where John Donne plays a central role.
Sonnet X, also known as “Death Be Not Proud“, is a fourteen-line poem by English poet John Donne, one of the leading metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century English literature.
It is a religious poetry about death, resurrection and eternal life.
Death, be not proud, though some have callèd thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleep, which yet thy pictures be, Much pleasure, then from thee much more, must low And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones and soul's delivery. Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men And dost with poison, war and sickness dwell, And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then ? One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
Wit is not a film for everybody but it is a film that makes you think, that deeply disturbs, that penetrates into the bowels of our soul and puts us face to face with fears, suffering, regrets and loneliness.
Two years ago I lost my best friend from ovarian cancer so it was difficult and painful for me to watch this movie.
The protagonist, Vivian Bearing, a professor of English literature, known for her intense knowledge of metaphysical poetry, after having spent a good part of her life mortifying her students, after having raised emotional barriers towards others, receives the diagnosis of metastatic ovarian cancer and suddenly finds herself alone, and during hospitalization she has a lot of time to think back to her previous behavior. The film is narrated in the first person as if the protagonist spoke directly to the public, her suffering is not hidden but shown without filters or shame.
During the course of the film, she continuously breaks the fourth wall by looking straight into the camera and clearly expressing all her feelings, as if she were a detached and involved narrator at the same time.
The only person who does not treat her like a guinea pig but shows her a shred of humanity is Susie, the nurse, to whom Vivian shows her own fragility.
Very touching is the episode in which the two women share a popsicle to ease the tension.
During her illness Vivian receives only a visit from her former graduate school professor and mentor, Evelyn Ashford, with whom she had talked about life, death, soul and God years before, without taking Evelyn’s advice to go out and enjoy herself with her friends.
During the visit, in front of Vivian’s desperate complaints, Evelyn reads her excerpts from The Runaway Bunny, embracing her as a mother does with a child.
As Vivian nears the end of her life, experiencing the drama of loneliness, she repents of the coldness of her heart and realizes that human compassion and empathy are more important than intellectual wit.
The film is raw, merciless, the scenography is spartan, almost all the scenes, with the exception of the flashbacks, are shot within the cold walls of a hospital room.
Emma shows great intensity without trying to be moving or arousing pity at all costs, but playing a very difficult part with determination and lucidity.
She also cut her hair to better fit the character.
I recommend watching the film to people who are not experiencing a dramatic moment, otherwise the film could hurt their sensitivity.