Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bright Star

Bright Star, written and directed by Jane Campion, was unfortunately a bit of a let down for me. I was expecting a slow moving, historical movie about an English poet and his untimely death but I hoped that the story would be more riveting, more moving. I thought The Piano by Campion was a much stronger film and am slightly disappointed by her latest drama.

The film is based on the romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, which was cut short by Keats' death from tuberculosis at age 25. Abbie Cornish is excellent as Fanny, making us feel her profound love and terrible ensuing sadness which know no bounds. Ben Whishaw, a relatively unknown actor, is also superb, perfectly embodying the physically frail, emotionally fragile, wondrous poet that was John Keats, so full of tender emotion.

There is much witty humor between Fanny and John's friend and fellow poet, Charles Brown, another excellent portrayal. He derides her constantly, making fun of her penchant for fashion and sewing and of her feigned interest (according to him) in poetry. He considers her a flirt and nothing more and tries to keep her as far away from John as possible, telling her they need time for their "musing" and must not be disturbed. To which she replies "Is that what us common people call thinking?".

Their love story is tragic- Fanny and John cannot marry because John does not have any income but they fall madly in love nonetheless. Fanny is his life, his inspiration and his hope during his illness. It is very sad that Keats dies almost unrecognized, poor and indebted, knowing that he then went on to become one of the most beloved and celebrated of Romantic poets.

Fanny lives with her family at home and since it is impossible for her to get more involved with John I found it hard to grasp the depth of their passion to the extent that Campion wants us to feel it. The first love they are exploring is beautiful and pure, but also immature at times.

There are undeniably beautiful excerpts in the exchanges between Fanny and John, such as this one, my favorite: "I almost wish we were butterflies, and lived but three summer days. Three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain." Fanny goes on to collect live butterflies in her room, which flutter about but end up littering the floor with their dead corpses, perhaps a symbol of this impossible love. Or "A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its loveliness increases. It will never pass into nothingness." During the ending credits, "Ode to a Nightingale" is read and makes one watch till the very last one scrolls by.

The costumes are lovely; the film is definitely beautiful, well directed and wonderfully acted. However, how to put this in the most mild, most polite, English way possible: Fabio and I were both, at times, slightly, just a little bit, only a touch, bored and were expecting a teeny, weeny bit more.

My rating: 6
Fabio's: 6
Total score: 12

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