I can’t say I have a strong relation to Australian director Jane Campion. As a matter of fact, the first thing I think of when I hear her name, is a joke in a comic book; a poster for “Jane Campion’s The Tuba” (she made THE PIANO).
When I the other day was in a bookstore and browsing cool paperbacks, I noticed a shelf with books that had been turned into recent movies, and one of them was a slim volume with poems by John Keats – or maybe it was his correspondence with his fiancee? I didn’t have a closer look.
John Keats died at age 25 of tuberculosis in 1821. Though he didn’t get very old, he’s regarded as one of the world’s greatest romantic poets. According to Campion’s movie, Keats kind of looked like a British pop star and was a sometimes fun and easy going fellow, albeit with health problems.
The main bulk of BRIGHT STAR takes place in a village outside of London. The story begins in 1818 and Abbie Cornish plays Fanny Brawne; a young, rather wealthy girl who doesn’t take no shit. She’s very interested in fashion and makes good money sewing dresses.
Neighbors are the poets Mr. Brown and Keats. Brown (Paul Schneider) is a brusque man, while Keats (Ben Whishlaw) of course is a more sensitive soul. Fanny claims she doesn’t understand poetry, and therefore Keats is going to teach her – and take a wild guess what happens, yes, they fall in love. It’s time for passion and stuff!
However, Keats is a poor guy and can’t make a living writing poems, so the two of them never marries – and among other things, Brown is in the way – so the sickly Keats travels to Rome all by himself and, well, dies. Aw, come on, don’t call this a spoiler – we knew all along he was going to snuff it sooner or later.
The cinematography of Campion’s movie is often quite beautiful. It’s not much of a movie for theatrical release; it’s mainly interior shots and people talking. It looks like a TV movie, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the credits would have said “copyright BBC 1972” or 1984 or 1998, or any year; the storytelling and aesthetics are timeless in that nice British tradition. But the imagery compositions and framing are beautiful, and there are several atmospheric walks in the woods during gray autumn days.
It’s a rather slow movie and unfortunately a tad too long. I can’t say I was bored watching it, but it did get a bit draggy towards the ending. And I’m not the biggest poetry fan in the world. But the romance between Fanny and Keats is pretty cute, and it’s interesting that Fanny is living in a house where the only man is her young brother. Fanny and her family appear very modern.
By the way, the dresses Fanny is wearing are rather ugly and kind of makes her look fat! The lead actors look strangely familiar; they all have those faces and names you can’t place, so I checked them up and state they’re from Australia, England and the U.S.A., and belong to those who often have supporting parts in movies I’ve seen, but I’ve never noted their names.