The Comparisons Project: Bright Star

Monday, 2 May 2011









Fanny Brawne sits in a corner and watches an ailing man duplicate words. Her needle tears and reforms incisively.

She imagines a tweed suit that can be gilded with unutterable sentences. She would sew this suit as armour, lain against a rapt chest that beats irregularly with illness.

She knows her woman’s work is really a form of enlivening. An act of creation and generosity.

Fanny’s watching becomes a topic of fascination for someone who reads letters meant only for her. After her mother’s death, a young girl likes to sit in the enclosed space of a torn armchair, examining the cover, the pages, the smell of a book of letters with Fanny’s name. This too is an act of evasive generosity, parcelled out through distance.

She mirrors what Fanny creates. In her bed at night, she lays fabric before her and rips neat squares. They cover one another like a palimpsest. What clever fingers can do is bind the trauma of experience with love.

Her mother liked the quiet contemplation of needlepoint. Like praying, she would say. And so her prayers come as a form of domestic reconstitution, not sublime poetry. The revenant residue of someone who will be forgotten, while words remain.

Fanny feels his straining beneath clothes as she sits in corners, wrapped in chairs like a cocoon. This evasion, this bodily separation, comes together through her sharp needle, moving in, moving out.

* * * * *

Welcome to my new little series with Diana from Miss Moss. We've partnered up to combine images with words in a regular monthly feature on our respective blogs called The Comparisons Project. I've always talked about how film and images inspire me to create fiction, and I've been wanting to put this theory to the test. I'm so glad Diana has agreed to join forces with me in this little project, as I find her images and colour comparisons to be some of the most inspiring things I've ever come across on the net. We both hope you enjoy this series, which will be based on a different film/television series each month. Diana will provide the beautiful images, while I'll provide the words. I can already feel my creativity perking.

All images are by Miss Moss, created using stills from Jane Campion's Bright Star and the paintings of Edmund Tarbell. All words are by me, Hila Shachar. Re-blogging is welcome, but please give proper credit when doing so.

Paintings from top to bottom: The Blue Veil (1899) by Edmund Tarbell; Across the Room (1899) by Edmund Tarbell; Girl Reading (1909) by Edmund Tarbell; Mother and Mary (1922) by Edmund Tarbell; My daughter Josephine (1915) by Edmund Tarbell; New England Interior (1906) by Edmund Tarbell; The Sisters (1921) by Edmund Tarbell; Mary Reading (1915-1916) by Edmund Tarbell.

P.S. There are only four more days to vote for me in the Sydney Writers' Centre blog competition!


SJ said...

such a great idea, i really love your writing.

good luck in the competition!

Caitlin Rose said...

Beautiful, I'm so so so happy you've decided to do this. Bright Star was such a beautiful film, and Miss Moss is so talented with these comparisons. I love your story though Hila, the whole this is just beautiful.

Tana said...

The comparison is gorgeous as the film is. Every time i see the pictures of "Bright star",i vividly remember the scenes from both with Diana do such a great job!

etre-soi said...

well Hila this is beautiful :) what a lovely combination !

sara said...

this is such a lovely combination of words and photos! what a great idea.

mnemonique said...

this is realy nice, beautiful and interestin project! I keep my fingers crossed!

Felix Curds said...

like cereal and milk- a fantastic combination:)

If Jane said...


Niina said...

Perfect concept for co-operation, I love it when talented people find each other and pull out something extraordinary together. I am pleased to hear this is a monthly project. Love the movie, feel dizzy when thinking about that scene where Fanny falls onto the bed with curtains blown by the wind.

C said...

Two of my favourite blogs working together! I've been wanting to see this movie and this post is incredibly convincing. Beautiful and melancholy.

andrea despot said...

i looooved this movie and i loooove this post! like you, i think diana's color comparisons are so inspiring and so well done! your writing is beautiful. i want to delve into each painting and each screen capture and become fanny...

i can't wait to see what the two of you come up with each month!

Molly said...

I feel like it's my birthday again, waking up to discover this wonderful surprise! You teaming up with Diana is just a dream. I am constantly wowed by her uncanny ability to create the most perfect image comparisons, and of course your writing keeps drawing me here like a magnet. Your first piece of fiction for this series is truly breathtaking. I am so excited for what's to come!

Marinka said...

This is amazing, I love the picture you chose. Its an interesting project good luck

odessa said...

hila, i love this project so much! and coincidentally, i just bought the DVD and was re-watching Bright Star this weekend. ah, definitely one of the best.

i can't wait for the next one!

Sundari said...

Oh what a sad little story. It hints at quite profound loss. This film is just beautiful and you are the best writer to talk about this. I am finally about to buy 'Elements of in Between'. I wonder if your writing on Bright Star is in there.

Flora said...

I'm in love with this film. I'm in love with your blog. Bravo et continue!

hila said...

sj: thanks so much, fingers crossed!

caitlin rose: thanks Caitlin, I'm really happy about this too because I really admire diana - she has such a good eye.

tana: thanks sweetheart!

Sofia: thanks Sofia :)

sara: thanks!

mnemonique: mine are firmly crossed too!

felix curds: ha, you and your wit ;)

if jane: thanks!

niina: that has to be one of my favourite scenes in the film too. Such a sensual moment.

c: oh please, do see it! the film is truly an experience.

andrea despot: thanks so much, I'm looking forward to seeing what we come up with too.

molly: thanks Molly, that's incredibly kind - and happy birthday again!

marinka: thanks!

Odessa: isn't it just? I love that film.

Sundari: unfortunately, we didn't include my bright star review in the book - it got to a point that it was too much work for me and amy to include all the films I've talked about on this blog. Maybe we'll do a second book sometime in the future ...

flora: thank you!

Carolina said...

So beautiful. Stunning. Thank you for doing this project.

hila said...

my pleasure!

CloudyKim said...

Woah, these pictures just blend so well together. And your accompanying words add another dimension to them! Great job!

Rhônya Holman said...

Beautiful combination of photos, and very well written! Good luck in this new project Hila ...

Sunshine & smiles to you always! =(^.^)=

hila said...

cloudykim and rhonya: thanks so much!

See Hear Say said...

this is such a wonderful project hila! beautiful words and gorgeous photos!!

hila said...

thanks Laura!