I read a lot of film and book blogs (don't look so shocked!), and every one that I read regularly was unanimous on one thing: Jane Campion was robbed at the Oscars this year, and so was her costume designer.
And now I agree too.
Bright Star (2009) was beautiful for both eyes and ears. The hats alone made me long to spend a week in England in 1818, which is an extremely rare feat as I am fond of both hot showers and central heating. Campion's use of cinematography to tell stories is unparalleled, and I may end up using clips of this film to explain why weather helps to tell stories. Rain may just be rain in the Real World, but in books and movies, my friends, it means one thing: sorrow. Sorrow so great that the world weeps even if the characters do not. And hang it all if I didn't weep right along with the very earth at the knowledge that John Keats is dead. Never mind that he's been deceased for nearly 200 years, and the only way he'd still be around is if he a)
sparkled turned to dust in the sunlight or b) ate braaaains. Given the tenor of Keats's poetry, I'm going to say that if he had a choice, he'd have gone with option A. But back to the subject at hand.
I have to hand it to Campion here - she used many of the extant letters between the lovers as voiceover. Fanny Brawne was a slightly empty-headed girl who liked fashion and flirting until she met John Keats. I'm not sure how it exactly happened, but Campion orchestrated it so carefully that when the announcement of love came, it was like a breath of fresh air instead of a startling revelation. Of course, anyone with any historical knowledge of the Romantics whatsoever or maybe a passing understanding of drama knows what is coming.
As doomed lovers and dead poets go, Keats is a fantastic poster boy. He was penniless and therefore could not marry the woman he loved. His poetry was decried as ridiculous and infantile; he died thinking his poetry was reviled and would fade into nothingness. He died of consumption, far away from the woman he loved. After his death, she wandered the heath of England quoting his poetry, never removing his ring.
And yet, there were bright points. The lovers were adorable, the banter was clever, and the whole film was carefully created to show the time in which it was set. You may know by now that I like period pieces. This one was lovely, and I'd recommend it as a bittersweet picture of the love between Fanny and John. I liked very much that Campion kept the story about Fanny instead of leaving her as a side character. She came alive as an advocate for her love and as a multifaceted woman. She also had an aDORable little sister whom I wanted to cuddle.
One of my favorite things about this movie, though, was the cat, Topper. He has the loudest, most cheerful purr ever caught on film, and it made me happy that it wasn't edited out.
Should you be wondering if you know Keats's work, let me soothe your worries. You have only to finish the following phrase:
"A thing of beauty is _________."
As Fanny herself said, the beginning of Endymion is perfection itself.