bright star

Bright Star

MPAA Rating: PG | Rating: ★★★★½
Release year: 2009
Genre: Biography, History, Romance Director: Campion

One of more surprising and delightful films I’ve seen in theaters this year, Jane Campion’s Bright Star proves that modesty can be sexy. For romantics, literary-types, and lovers of the period piece, Bright Star tells the true story of the brief romance between poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his neighbor, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Theirs is a romance of opposites. She’s an upper-class woman interested in fashion and dancing, finding little use for most poetry. He is the starving artist, the poet with a foppish coat and a disdain for dances. His friend and fellow poet, Charles Brown (Paul Schneider, in an Oscar-worthy supporting role), has a mistrust of Fanny and her diversions; her mother wants her to marry a man with money. They have nothing in common apart from a deepening love.

This is a poets’ film. Expressed through beautiful cinematography with a quiet wonder, the film is an ode to love in its purest forms. So much is told through simple romantic scenes–a walk through a ponds’ reeds, the pressing of hands against a dividing bedroom wall, a field of purple flowers in bloom, a room filled with butterflies. Much of the dialogue is Keats’ own poetry as Fanny becomes a sort of muse for his writing. The performances are all exemplary, and the romance feels intimate for something so chaste. Campion captures the beautiful imagery of it all with her lens, and the cinematography is wondrous.

Keats once wrote “‘beauty is truth; truth beauty.’–that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Such a beautiful film as this embodies the beautiful truth that love transcends much of today’s common notions of it. Love doesn’t equal sex. Love is not a fleeting emotion. Love is a commitment filled with pain and frustration and confusion, yet with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and meaning and effervescence. It is both a simple personal choice and a mystical force outside ourselves. My wife and I are the age of Keats and Fanny in the film; thus I cannot help but see ourselves in their relationship. Ours is also a romance of opposites. I’m a movie-watching, music-loving, messy extroverted romantic; she is level-headed, detail-oriented, hard-working, wise and beautiful. We, like Fanny and Keats, embrace our contrasts and learn from one another’s strengths and passions. Katie has taught me more about life, love, and God than anyone else I’ve ever known, and I love that our relationship will be a lifetime of learning about and from one another.

I’m convinced that Keats would be honored by Campion’s film. This has become one of my favorite films of the year thus far, for its beauty and its truth. I’ll let Keats’ words from the titular poem speak for themselves:

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art— Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night And watching, with eternal lids apart, Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite, The moving waters at their priestlike task Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores, Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask Of snow upon the mountains and the moors— No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable, Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast, To feel for ever its soft fall and swell, Awake for ever in a sweet unrest, Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, And so live ever—or else swoon in death.

IMDB Listing: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0810784/

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