9 November 2009 | mccjem
Through brilliant, stunning visuals and intelligent, witty dialogue, Jane Campion's Bright Star celebrates the rapture of passionate love. Using many of the Romantic John Keats' own words--captured for posterity in his poems and love letters to Fanny Brawne, his 'sweet Girl'--Campion has weaved together one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen.
Rich 19th-century fabrics and breathtaking English scenery make Bright Star a sensuous pleasure to experience. But these visuals merely reflect the beauty within, the soul of this film: the love affair of Miss Brawne and Mister Keats.
Brawne is passionate about and proud of her fashionable and daring needlework, as is Keats his aspiring albeit more fine-spun poetry, and both share an ardent love of life and a longing for someone with whom to experience it completely. Theirs is the inspiring true story of the rare uniting of equals--of two strong, independent, and intelligent individuals with unique talents and dreams yet deeply matching values and desires.
The emotional, intellectual, and subtly sensual affair between Brawne and Keats is captured wonderfully in Bright Star, owing in part to the portrayal and backdrop of those closest to the lovers in their own lives, such as Keats' coarse but caring friend Charles Brown and Brawne's warm mother and endearing siblings. The obtrusively vulgar Brown serves in stark contrast to the gentlemanly Keats, whose integrity and will Brown deeply admires but cannot quite live up to in his own life, while Brawne's loving family--woven seamlessly into the storyline through their presence in scenes of playfully benevolent games, strolls, and dinner-parties-- serves as foil to the equally loving yet singularly feisty Brawne. Through the meaningful and often-tender dialogue and interactions between these vivid characters, Bright Star is able to match beauty of setting with that of soul, a rare feat in a film...as it is in life.
Now Bright Star has been attacked as sentimental by the modern, cynical skeptic, and if it were the hackneyed story of a princess and a pauper mindlessly frolicking to their "fairytale" ending, his criticism might merit a modicum of respect. But Bright Star is not a fairytale in that empty sense; for the fact is Keats died at the age of 25, and he and Brawne were anything but mindless. So unhappily for the cynic, his venom is ineffectual against this film; for in Bright Star, his normally insidious strain of attack finds its antidote: reality. Bright Star is a *true story* depicting the love affair of two exceptional souls who lived a life (however brief for Keats) of happiness *in this world*. In today's angst-ridden, often gloomy atmosphere of humility and despair--where so many either consciously diffuse or unwittingly (and tragically) breathe in the modern liberal claim of man's depravity (itself merely a mutation of the ancient Christian notion of Original Sin)--the little-known Bright Star shines through in rebellion with pride and exaltation, demanding its viewers resurrect the self-esteem and aspiration they once had as children, and should never have let die as adults.
Although Bright Star is deeply uplifting and truly benevolent, one must be prepared to leave its resplendent world tinged with a real sadness. But this sadness does not--it cannot-- abide if one recalls Keats' own poetic words to Brawne (from an early love letter), which encapsulate the film's essence: passionate love for this wondrous world and one's 'Bright Star' in it...
"...I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days--three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain."