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Shooting Stars

 
 

 Love & Luminosity....

   

 

  

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness....
-John Keats

Endymion

 

One knows, of course, that Keats is tubercular, will die young.  That this love will burn brightly, but only for a while.  In every composed shot, the photography with a lovely blue filter perfectly captures the restrained lyricism of the film.  Jane Campion's latest offering, the marvelous Bright Star, examines the subtleties of the relationship between John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish).  There are moments of poetic rhapsody -- a room full of butterflies, delicate gestures and glances -- and scenes of such naturalism where clothes and period settings never overpower but perfectly position and propel an impossible love story along.

 

Andrew Motion's Keats: A Biography was the starting point.  Campion says the book, and the letters themselves (Keats's letters to Brawne, Keats ordered Brawne's letters to be burned upon his death) inspired her to write the screenplay, which is subtle and moving, and shifts the emphasis in many ways to Brawne; in her reimagining Keats remains enigmatic.

 

The two are neighbors in Hampstead in 1818, with the wild heath, and woods and fields of lovely flowers.  He is the Romantic poet, she is enamored with fashion and designing and sewing (if she were alive today, she would probably be showing at Fashion Week!).  He is already established as a poet when they meet, but penurious.  She asks for poetry lessons, and Keats says to her: "A poem needs understanding through the senses.  The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore; it's to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water.  You do not work the lake out.  It is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery."  Fanny is initially taken only with fashion, but slowly becomes enamored with Keats and his poetry.  He is too poor to ask for her hand. There is Charles Brown (Paul Schneider), the poet's friend and mentor, who sees this love as distraction, and attempts to thwart its progress, elements of jealousy and also a skepticism about Fanny's flirtatious nature.  The interactions and actions are intimate, and surprisingly modern.  There is Brawne's family, her mother, brother and sister (we thought Fanny's little sister, Toots (Edie Martin), the most adorable little thing we have ever seen in the movies). 

 

The romance is chaste, there are kisses, poetry -- La belle dame sans merci which they both recite in what might be the most erotic scene of the movie, there are walks amidst flowers and trees.  Campion describes their relationship as "entwined together."

 

Where Jane Campion's other brilliant film The Piano is wildly passionate and sexual, Bright Star is restrained and lyrical, a subtle examination of the shadows and spaces in the heart.

 

By the time Keats, whose health is deteriorating, leaves for Rome in 1820, the two are engaged.  He wrote to Charles Brown, "The thought of leaving Miss Brawne is beyond every thing horrible -- the sense of darkness coming over me -- I eternally see her figure eternally vanishing."     

 

See: Bright Star

 

Read: Andrew Motion's Keats: A Biography 

 

See: The Piano

 

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