Nov 20, 2010

Bright Star (2009) - as beautiful as poetry

directed by Jane Campion / starring Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Paul Schneider

In one of my least favourite courses this year I had to write a poetry analysis on a poem called The Eve of St. Agnes, written by John Keats in the 19th century. As it happens, Bright Star tells about John Keats. I had previously thought I should probably see it, though I didn't know what or who is about, exactly. So now that I spotted a familiar name, I decided to find out who was the fellow behind the 10-mile long poem that caused me so bad headaches.

The film concentrates on the romance aspect of John Keats' final years. He is a struggling poet, not a very successful one, but highly appreciated by his friends. Then he falls in love with Fanny Brawne and introduces her to the world of poetry and all is swell for a while and they almost get married but then John gets sick and we all know what's going to happen. But seeing it happen is actually quite sad.

Before all I knew was that John Keats lived in the 1800s, liked writing long poems and died at 25. Now... well, I can't say I know much more, but that wasn't the point of the film. I didn't look at it as a biography of any kind, but as a romantic drama about a pair of lovers. The love story was potrayed quite beautifully and touchingly. The performances were credible and delicate and no one annoyed me.

I also liked a lot how the film had been shot and how it looked. All the lingering shots of the beautiful English countryside and silent moments when words were not needed or they wouldn't have been enough. And the clothes, or course. I always get a kick out of old-fashioned clothes.

I've never really liked/appreciated/understood/bothered reading poetry, which is probably why I didn't get as much out of Bright Star as a person who does would have. As I said in the title, the film was 'as beautiful as poetry', and that kind of was the problem. I mean, for me, an uncultured brute as I am, The Eve of St. Agnes was just another deadline and thus a source of annoyance more than anything else. Though yeah, I did finally see that it was a beautiful poem, in which Keats had skilfully poured the sorrows and agonies of his short life. But yeah. It's good that there are still more cultured and poetical people in the world, so this beautiful writing doesn't go to waste and is not forgotten. (Plus I did get a 4+ for the analysis, so I must have understood something right. Yay.)

So, a beautiful little film. I didn't love it, but am still glad I watched it.

"A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving into a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is a experience beyond thought."

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