‘Awake for ever in a sweet unrest’

February 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

Jane Campion’s Bright Star is a lovely, tender, moving film – all vapid, bland words that don’t do the film any justice. It’s a gorgeous testament to the life of art being heightened, and strengthened, by the gift of love.

I must admit to not knowing much of Keats’ poetry, which I intend to remedy pretty soon. I suppose it’s the voice of Ben Whishaw, as Keats, reading Keats’ poetry, that did me in – but heck, who cares how I get there as long as I get there, right?

Bright Star is rather long; almost 2 hours. For most of our Twitter-fried brains, that might be more concentration than we focus on our loved ones in the span of a week. Also, it is a movie that demands concentration as much as it is aesthetically stunning. There are no neon mushrooms and inter-species sex here that might have kept you glued to your seats while in Pandora, but there are triple-pleated mushroom collars.

Fanny Brawne’s creative outlet is sewing, Keats’ is poetry. It’s a credit to Campion that Fanny’s interest in sewing, and by extension, designing, is not merely a feminist ploy – it seems totally consistent with her character. Furthermore, Campion does a great job of displaying the social mores of the time without being pedantic. Lives, especially female lives, were firmly on the inside. You were always surrounded by people. You had to woo and court and write and create surrounded by other people. Although, it must be said, being a male poet gave one license to shut the door and block out the world.

An interesting point to note is that when Fanny is deep in the throes of love, and the obsession that comes with it (or with first love, I’m not sure), she rarely picks up her needle and thread.

Most of all, though, I was in love with Fanny’s family. Her lovely siblings – the most exquisitely adorable little sister, Toots! I loved how the movie captured the tenderness that siblings have for each other (particularly sisters) even while you threaten them with things like, “I’ll cut your hair off at night if you do that.”  Fanny’s mother is traditional while being liberal, and it’s almost too easy to see how Fanny managed to become the headstrong, independent, clever person that she is with a mother like that. When Keats writes to Fanny, accepting her invitation to spend Christmas with her and her family, it’s because he wants to be with her and her family. It’s clear that he’s besotted with Fanny, but the comforts of the home provided by Mrs. Brawne and Fanny’s siblings simply cannot be refused now that he’s bereft of a family of his own after his brother’s death.

That’s Ben Whishaw, as Keats, with a flower in his hair, for your swooning pleasure.


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