Bright Star

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

bright star

bright star

bright star

bright star

bright star


Written on a blank page in Shakespeare's Poems, facing 'A Lover's Complaint'

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,
Pillow'd 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 to death.

-John Keats

* * *

I have finally seen Jane Campion's Bright Star after generously receiving free tickets from Penguin. Let me say, I have seen many, many, many films in the past few years, most of which have been period films, and I have never been so moved, so intimately stirred by any film like this one.

I wish I could articulate to you in words why I find this film so different, so entirely separate from other period films, from other love stories, from other interpretations of an author's life. There are many things that appeal about this film, and it is visually very beautiful, but many period films are beautiful. No, that's not it. That's too easy, too facile.

I think the answer might well lie with the imagery that is still so provocatively present in my mind, a few hours after viewing the film. It's sewing. A simple, mundane and entirely feminine domestic chore, which the film is full of. Fanny sews a lot, Fanny pauses a lot, as does Keats. This is all done in real time. If there is a lull in their conversation, it is silent. If Keats is busy writing, Fanny watches with her needle in the corner. If Keats is sick, Fanny curls on the bed next to him as they try to feel the substantial weight of bodies through finely-sewn clothing.

Sewing has a significant metaphorical meaning in many nineteenth-century novels, and I don't think Campion is unaware of this. The needle going into pure white cloth is highly symbolic for a couple who never actually act out their desire. I have never sat through a movie that is so sensual in which the only the physical contact is kissing.

Perhaps another reason why I loved this film beyond reason is because I could see Keats and Fanny in Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw. I believed them so much. I believed Fanny when she couldn't breath (if you haven't seen the film, I won't ruin it for you) and I believed Keats when he smiled at her across the room. There was nothing sentimental, simple, dramatic, or grand about this. It is more insular that that.

Does it sound like I'm rambling? I am, I know. I feel I have so much to say about this film, but the words escape me.


Young Mind said...

I thought this movie was going to be great, but I couldn't believe it at all from the very start! All I could see were the actors and their performances as if I were behind the filming camera. And, I'm normally a sucker for romance but I didn't care at all for this love story.

However, your insights into the symbolism and sensuality of the film prevent me from dismissing Bright Star entirely. And you're right, it is a very pretty film.

jules @ The Diversion Project said...

Wow, look forward to seeing it. I have a child free weekend this weekend and have two movies I want to see - this one included. Thanks for your review!

kerri said...

lovie i am so glad you adored this piece of magic as much as i did. every second of it had me captivated. i cried like a baby at her broken heart at the end.

love love love

Sundari said...

I absolutely fell in love with everything Jane Campion could offer in this piece. It was so beautiful. I wish there was another word that wasn't used so much but none fit as well as 'beautiful'.

Saoirse said...

I really do want to see this film!
I love your blog too! (i've added you to my blog roll :) )

marie said...

it hit me in the same way too.

amy said...

i've had no time for film trips lately but i really should hurry along to this one.

Mary-Laure said...

I saw it months ago and am happy that you loved it as much as I did. I found it magical, and am going to get the DVD when it comes out at the end of the month.

danica said...

i'm going to try to find some time to see this soon. it looks beautiful.

Rina said...

I really want to see this film! and you should think a film critic career, seriously!

a secret public diary said...

I think Bright Star only played in my city for a week, so before I had a chance to organise a trip to the cinema it had disappeared.
So disappointed, stuff the love story I want the colour, the commercials for this showed the most beautiful tones and hues. I'll have to wait for the DVD and I doubt my TV will do it justice.

Hila said...

young mind: I suppose not everyone can like the same films, that would be rather boring actually :)

Jules: my pleasure, I hope you enjoy it.

Kerri: oh I agree! I was crying my eyes out by the end.

sundari: I know, somehow "beautiful" doesn't seem to capture what I want to say about this film either.

saoirse: thanks, that's very sweet.

Marie: "hit" is the right word!

amy: do! go see it, you won't regret it.

Mary-Laure: I already pre-ordered the dvd too :)

danica: I hope you'll love it as much as I did.

Rina: ha! I'd love to be a film critic, the problem is finding the job! :)

a secret public diary: that's such a shame, but I'm sure it'll be equally beautiful on dvd.

Pauline said...

I watched that movie yesterday, and I was so moved...I'm still. It's probably because I'm romantic. But I can't help myself thinking that our world is so sad, so unatractive. I mean, we no longer care about beauty, about nature, about love, true love. Even if we want it, people just care about sex, money and power. Poor Keats who's probably looking down on us, may be so disapointed! And so I am!

CeCe said...

i absolutely adored this film - and i really appreciate the info about sewing as a metaphor, very interesting.

part of the reason why i think it was such a successful period piece was because i think it felt lived in, kind of worn.

but anyway, here's a short article you might enjoy about language in the film

Angie said...

How have you been dear? It's been awhile since I last commented! Thank you for posting about this film, I loved reading your thoughts on it.
I didn't want it to end...

Hila said...

Pauline: I have to agree, although I do think Keats would have been kind to us :)

cece: thank you for that link! And that's a perfect way of describing it: lived in and worn. That's exactly how it felt.

Angie: so good to hear from you!! I hope you're doing well, I've missed you!

Joanna said...

I finally saw this film over the weekend and wrote a little post about it. You're right, it's more than just a beautiful film. The hidden layers of meaning are what make it truly special and beg for another viewing. I originally thought the pacing too slow, but the film has got a hold on me and now I can't stop thinking about it! Beautiful post.

Hila said...

thank you so much; and I agree with everything you have said about the film.

Anonymous said...

This was the most emotionally gripping movie I have ever seen. For some reason it has just impacted me in a way that I cannot fully explain. I had only vaguely heard the name "John Keats" and thus being introduced to his work through this movie was a wonderful experience and now I'm lusting over a copy of all the letters and poems.

This is my first time to this blog, it's lovely. I'm going to enjoy scrolling through the archives!

Mila said...

dear hila,

i just saw the movie yesterday, and i am still so moved by it. after the movie, i just wanted silence because i was so moved that i didn't want anything else on my mind at that time. i know, i am such a softie.
anyway, i completely agree with you that there are no right words to describe this movie, but i love your words, as always.

anyway, i just wanted to thank you, because of your beautiful words on this movie i decided to watch it.

thank you so much, hila.

i hope you are doing great.