I watched the beautiful Bright Star last week and was mesmerised by it. All parts seemed to come together as one,forming something larger than the sum of its parts. The lighting, the music, the simplicity of the story, the history, the setting, the emotion of those acting, everything was just right. Not too much or too little. You know when something is just like that...it has a really good affect on you doesnt it.
The film made in 2009 is based on the last three years of the life of english poet John Keats,who lived 1795 to 1821. It focuses on his romantic relationship with Fanny Brawne whom he met while they both lived within the same house in Hampstead, London,the place where he wrote the most well known of his poetry, including Ode to a Nightingale.
It stars the English actor Ben Whishaw as Keats and Australian, Abbie Cornish as Fanny. Directed by Jane Campion,(oscar winner for The Piano, seen in the picture above with Ben and Abbie at the premiere) who wrote the screenplay and was inspired by the biography of Keats written by Andrew Motion. The film's title is a reference to a sonnet by Keats named "Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art", which he wrote while he was with Brawne.
The film is seen largely through the eyes of Fanny which was the angle chosen by Campion and it works so well. She explained on the dvd how she saught to not force the film, and to get the actors to let go and let things just come through them. That way they were not "over trying" they were more allowing what was within them to be expressed. This was a way of being that Keats referred to as "negative capabilty". I think on reflection what Jane understood about this and how she had the intention to apply it to her own creative work, creates a synergy with Keats poetry. It imbues it with the same flowing quality and while watching it enhances our understanding of his nature as afterall the film is an Ode to Keats and to his Loves- poetry, meaning, & passionate love.
Ben Whishaw, portrays Keats from his soul outwards, and his questing to make sense of life through his poetry really is evoked strongly not just by words spoken, but through his eyes and in his very beingness on screen. He must have worked very hard to understand Keats to get to a point where he can step back and make it then look so effortless and just instinctively be him. He even learnt to write with a quill, so the letters in the film were actually in his own handwriting.
Abbie Cornish is an actress thats a joy to watch, i hadnt come across her in anything prior to this but i will certainky want too see her again. She looks entirely different in real life to how she was as Fanny. She has dark hair in the film and her accent is impeccable. She is one of those actors that makes you forget about their outer beauty because they transcend it. She played the most emotive scenes to perfection, again it must have been because she was going off instinct as opposed to thinking about the part she was acting. I really liked how she showed the obssessional aspect to love and how all consumed she became. It was in contrast to the quiet reflective energy of her at the beginning when she was sewing her beautifully designed clothes and neck pieces. Each stitch so carefully sewn with a steadiness and purposefulness. She had a strong creative spirit, and that same passion was transfered into her love for Jon. I would be very interested to know if she returned to fashion and what the rest of her life turned out to be.
There are many memorable scenes in the film, where the actors portrayal and the setting theyre in, unite to form a special moment. Curtains billowing while Fanny rests upon her bed, or the collection of butterflies her and her sister Toots unleash around the bedroom, the bluebell wood is another favourite, Fanny lying back into the flowers upon receipt of a cherished letter from Jon.
I know it was the only way they had to be in touch and no doubt the time delaying in recieving news from loved ones was so tough to bare at times, but aren't letters just one of the most romantic things ever!....till next time may bright stars be there to guide you, and may we all find our truest love......
P.S. while browsing online i found these links
Jane Campion's Bright Star scrapbook
Article in the Telegraph about Ben Whishaw
Clip from US premier of Bright Star in September