Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Aug 31st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Keats In Love - Film Review

film_BrightStar2aCampion’s spellbinding ‘Bright Star” a thing of beauty
It begins like a Jane Austen comedy of manners, with genteel country folk in top hats and high-waisted frocks visiting each other’s parlors, trading repartee. But filmmaker Jane Campion has something far more rapturous, mysterious, and absorbing in mind for her new film, Bright Star. Working from a real-life romance in the life of Romantic-era English poet John Keats, Campion creates an achingly lovely ode to youthful passion, and the wellspring of art.

In 1818, in the countryside of Hampstead, the impoverished young Keats (Ben Whishaw) has taken lodgings in the house of his friend and brother poet, rough-hewn Scotsman Charles Brown (Paul Schneider) for the summer. Their neighbors across the way are the widowed Mrs. Brawne and her three children. The eldest, 16-year-old Fanny (the resolute and remarkable Abbie Cornish) is an accomplished seamstress who designs and hand-sews all her own clothes.

Brown ferociously guards Keats and their sacred work from the distractions of their neighbors. The Scotsman especially enjoys baiting “the very well-stitched little Miss Brawne,” who dismisses him with cutting disdain. But Fanny is drawn to  gentlemanly young John; she not only brings him little hand-made gifts for his consumptive brother back in London, she sends her younger siblings into the village to buy a copy of John’s book “Endymion” (the only copy the bookseller has sold). When she asks John for lessons to help her “work out” the mysteries of poesy, a sympathetic affection begins to brew between them.

John has neither living nor income to support a wife, and no other intimate attachment is possible. (At 22, he’s not even sure how he feels about women, his sister being the only member of that species with whom he’s ever felt comfortable), Social conventions are so strictly enforced, Fanny can’t set foot outside the house without her brother or sister dispatched to accompany her. And their budding relationship is complicated at every turn by the volatile ambiguity of Brown’s feelings for both John and Fanny.

Yet they’re swept up in all the rage, despair, joy and tragedy that young love confers. The depth of their feeling unfolds in Campion’s details: in the way Fanny opens her window to let a sunlit, gently billowing breeze caress her after she and John have stolen their first kiss. In the tactile thrill of a hand-scrawled letter delivered by post, or a note slipped under a door. In the fragile, trembling beauty of the roomful of live butterflies Fanny collects while John is away, writing her from the seaside where he’s gone for his own failing health (their desiccated corpses soon swept up into the dustpan, along with her hopes, when John’s letters cease).

Campion gets it that in John and Fanny’s era, people’s emotions weren’t pre-digested for them via movies or TV soap operas. In the unchartered territory of the heart without a compass, their first experience of love is raw and unfiltered; stubborn and all-consuming. The only way for John to examine and cope with his feelings is through his increasing output of mature poetry—including the poem “Bright Star,” which scholars believe was written for Fanny.

film_bright_starKeats tells Fanny a poem must be understood through all the senses, and Campion’s breathtaking images have a poetry all their own. She revels in a sea of spring bluebells, or cottages clustered together like clumps of moss on a hillside, connected by long strings of rustling white laundry, or the intimate serenity of Fanny, patiently plying her stitches at her sunlit window.

Whishaw’s Keats is a half-fey creature burning through his short life ingesting experience from which to create art. American actor Schneider is excellent as Brown, whose disruptive belligerence masks feelings too complex to confront within himself. Kerry Fox (star of Campion’s fine early film, An Angel At My Table) brings a wise, weary sympathy to the role of Mrs. Brawne, and little Edie Martin is a frisky delight as Fanny’s impish little sister.

Seductive to watch, paced and rigorous in its accumulation of feeling, this is vivid storytelling by a filmmaker of astonishing craft and subtlety.


BRIGHT STAR ★★★1/2 (out of four) Watch movie trailer >

With Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, and Paul Schneider. Written and directed by Jane Campion. An Apparition release. Rated PG. 119 minutes.

Comments (1)Add Comment
...
written by SEO Blog, September 24, 2009
How romantic.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual