Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Young Bluestockings Go to the Cinema: Bright Star

Well, what did you all think?

I suppose that I should warn you that I’m not a film buff and don’t really have the know-how to discuss film as art with any degree of critical know-how. But I am a history geek and a writer of fiction, so I’m going to talk about history and story. If any of you are more versed in film critique, I would LOVE to hear from you!

So…starting from the beginning, I really enjoyed this film, even though, of course, I knew there wouldn’t be a Happily Ever After kind of ending. I like the fact that the actors looked like real people rather than, well, actors—not that they weren’t attractive people, but they also weren’t Hollywoodish, if that makes sense. It made it much easier for me to think about the characters they played instead of them. Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw brought Fanny and John to luminous life, but I admired the supporting cast hugely, especially Fanny's little sister Toots and the painfully jealous Brown.

Jane Campion (both writer and director) based the story of the relationship between John Keats and the girl next door, Fanny Brawne, on a biography by Andrew Motion. Fanny had long gotten short shrift from earlier biographers, who saw her as a destructive force and a weight dragging Keats back from his art; Motion restored her as a human being and as a source of inspiration for the poet.

In fact, beyond the catharsis of a romance of doomed love and the glorious poetry (and how it's used so very, very well in this movie), what I think draws me most about Bright Star is that it is about Fanny rather than about Keats.

Fanny loves to sew. And the act of sewing as well as clothing is used in beautiful and meaningful ways throughout the movie: Fanny first touches Keats by stitching a pillow slip for his dead brother, she flirts through discussion of her wardrobe early on; she tells Keats that a coat of blue velvet is what a poet should wear. And oh, her wardrobe! That pink pelisse she wears when calling to bring dainties to Keats’ brother, and the double-breasted striped linen dress in the picnic scene, and the melancholy blue pelisse she wears when seeing him off to Italy…exquisite! Earlier Keats biographers saw Fanny's love of sewing and beautiful clothes as a sign of her shallowness...I see it as the creative outlet of a person who also loved beauty.

The sets were also wonderful…the house lovely (and wasn't the bluebell wood amazing?) and furnishings appropriate. I must say that I felt more drawn into this world than the world of Young Victoria (despite all its gorgeousness) because it felt so much more real.

To let you know what happened later, Fanny mourned Keats’ death for years, avoiding society (though she and Keats’ younger sister, also called Fanny, became close friends after his death) and wearing mourning. Her brother and mother both died in the late 1820s, and she and her younger sister Margaret (Toots) moved to France to live with family. It was here that Fanny met Louis Lindon, whom she married in 1833 (the picture of her above is from about that time). She had three children, to whom she left her carefully preserved letters from Keats on her death in 1865.

Okay, Young Bluestockings, the floor is open. What did you like or dislike about this film? Did you get teary at the end, even though you knew how it would end? (Yes, I did. So there.) Are you inspired to read Keats now, or to pick up a needle? Discuss!

12 comments:

Regina Scott said...

I'll have more to say on Friday, but for now, four words:

I want her clothes.

:-)

Oh, and perhaps three more words:

Yes, I cried.

annebingham said...

I teared up, I admit it. Mostly I felt desperately grateful for antibiotics. Then I went to the Source of All Knowledge to see if Fanny snapped out of it after an appropriate time, and was happy to see that she did, and annoyed at the script for implying that she didn't.

annebingham said...

um... the Source of All Knowledge being Wikipedia...

aimeestates said...

I just added this to my Netflix queue and plan to watch it first thing tomorrow (as part of my vacation from paper). I shall return!

Marissa Doyle said...

She did snap out of it...but it took her six years, which is saying something in a time when an unmarried woman had almost no social and economic status.

I think there's room for a bio of her, don't you? Or a novel...hmmm...

And yes for modern medicine. Evidently Keats' doctors kept bleeding him and making him eat practically nothing, which, uh, didn't help much.

Marissa Doyle said...

Yay Aimee!! It's a very visually beautiful picture--definitely come back after you've seen it.

QNPoohBear said...

I saw it last winter and I adored the historical details, the costumes and the scenery, however, as a romance, I thought it was overblown and way too dramatic. One reviewer described Fanny as a psycho stalker and I wouldn't go that far but she did come across as rather crazy. I watched it twice before posting the review on my blog.
http://bluestockingmusings.blogspot.com/2010/01/bright-star.html

Marissa Doyle said...

Thanks for the link, QNPoohBear! What I find interesting is that when the Keats/Brawne letters were published in the 1870s (I think), scholars flipped because Keats came out in a decidedly non-ethereal poet light in them--he was obsessive and jealous (a little of which was shown in the film). I didn't necessarily find it overly-dramatic, considering the ages Fanny and Keats were at this time--she was 18 and he 21 or 22...which I think was easy to forget because neither Cornish nor Whishaw look that young.

bethany said...

I have not yet watched the movie. I could have on netflix by now but I had a hard time putting forth the effort and convincing my family that it should be bumped up on the list. I will probubly watch it some day but it may take a while

Regina Scott said...

Bethany--do you have an internet connection fast enough to watch online? Or a gaming system hooked up to the internet? Bright Star is on Netflix's instant play. That's how I watched it--on my computer. I also have a hard time convincing my family that movies about the nineteenth century are just as fabulous as horror movies and ninja flicks. :-) You might also check your local library.

Rachel said...

Mr. Brown drove me nuts! I was hoping he would make someone so mad that they would throw him out a window!

I loved Fanny's white dress when she brings the bunch of pink flowers to Keats.

Overall, I think I liked The Young Victoria more than this movie.

Did anyone watch the previews on the DVD? They made Alcott's Old Fashioned Thanksgiving into a movie.

ChaChaneen said...

I lurved her clothes too! I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and wished I had known more of the backstory to really understand what was going on. I watched it a second time and understood it perfectly then. Sigh....

The clothes, sets, etc... all beautiful!