Let's be honest, Keats is a master poet that every English major becomes intimately acquainted with at some point. I still remember reading "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" when in high school, and later in college reading "Lines on the Mermaid Tavern" and "To Autumn," which Hugh Grant famously quotes the opening line to while paddling Bridget Jones across a pond in Bridget Jones Diary. His "Ode on a Grecian Urn" particularly caught my attention, as I've always held a fascination and love of Greece. The lines, taken from the opening of the third stanza have always struck me:
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shedI've always loved that last line, with its repetition of the word happy, to imbue the emotion to love so that we see that emotion not just as romantic, but as containing an array of bright and wonderful feelings to also describe it. That's how I always hoped it to be! I can't say that Keats was my favorite poet, but I always found his poetry to be bright and precise in its descriptions, whether about nature or a man-made object. His precision has always been awe-inspiring, especially after I learned just how complex poems such as his really were.
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
Having said that, I actually learned about the film from my mother, who knew this would be a film I wouldn't want to miss. Last evening, my friend Doc and I braved the ensuing depression that we knew would set in, and went to see Bright Star, for which Keats also wrote a poem by that title ("Bright Star").
Synopsis: Centered on the life of poet John Keats, the film captures the supposed love between Keats and Fanny Brawne, who are kept apart because of social and financial standings. As with most Regency Period films, the ideals of social standing and sexual purity pervade the film, intertwined with the angsty beatific language of the poetry of Keats spread throughout. Images of nature and simple objects fill the film and add an additional layer to the tortured, yet short-lived love between Keats and Brawne, before the untimely death of Keats to tuberculosis.
Review: Unlike the film Becoming Jane, in which two lovers are kept apart by social expectations, Keats and Brawne are essentially kept apart by more than just the penniless status of an up and coming poet who can barely care for his own needs than that of a wife. Keats and Brawne seem at odds, initially, in their world view; she is a supposed realistic with her love of fashion, and he is a poet with his eyes to nature for inspiration. Over time, we see that mutual respect and friendship wield the two together, and create a powerful love that neither can deny.
While I can say that I left the theater having shed a few tears, I didn't feel the despair that I did after watching the drama of Jane Austen's life (definitely not a film for the single female to see--the closing lines mention that she and her sister never married). The tears I shed were more for the loss of both people in the relationship, and for the possibilities of what more Keats could have composed had he lived.
In short, Bright Star is a brooding, cinematic piece of art that I highly recommend to any and all Regency Period fans, or to fans of English courses and classic literature. I found the film to honor the work and pain that goes into the creative process really very beautiful, and lends us a bit more respect for the work that the poet put into their work. The shots captured on film were beautiful, and with a PG rating, I felt that they left the love and passion of the couple to be felt through artistic representation and not through gratuity. Overall, a brilliant film, and one that I will definitely be purchasing.
For another great review, see the NY Times review of the film, and for more information on the movie itself, see: Bright Star, the movie site.
This review is also my fourth in the Period Drama Challenge.