Beauty · Films

Mr. Keats and Ms. Brawne

Remember this post I did about a beautiful photograph? And how on some quick search it turned out that the photograph is a still from a film called Bright Star based on the love letters written by John Keats to his beloved Fanny Brawne in the last four years of his life? Well you may read about all of that discovery process here if you have forgotten. I, of course, remember the photograph and where and how it led me, very clearly in my mind.

Yes, I also remember that I also wrote at the end of that post that I may do a follow-up after watching the film. And this is that follow-up post, finally 🙂

I watched the film soon after that post, in fact watched it twice in the same week itself. Yes, it is that good. Beautiful actually, if you ask me. The beautiful love story between the brooding and aloof English poet of beauty and his lady love, the charming and full-of-life Fanny Brawne. The way their love begins, blossoms and matures, the pain of separation and the depth of longing, the tragic loss of one’s beloved to disease and death, the frailty of emotions and the delicacy of the moment, all is captured beautifully by Jane Campion.

And oh, all that beauty of English countryside around them! Campion has masterfully created a visual poetry in this film, with some valuable help from the beauty of Keats’ poetry as well. May be it is her feminine sensitivity or her love for Keats’ poetry or Romantic poetry in general, whatever it is the result is an absolutely delightful treat. As a reviewer wrote, “if Campion intended to inspire an appreciation and rediscovery of Keats’ poetry, she has not only succeeded but herself created an artistic monument to his life, love, poetry and soul”. The way the change of seasons is depicted through the changing colours, light and all other moods of nature is absolutely gorgeous and brings such a sense of deep beauty all over you. You just have to watch those scenes in silence and let the beauty take you by hand into itself.

I am not exaggerating. If you have seen the film, you know that already. And if you haven’t, you may see for yourself in some of the still shots I share below. (And I hope by now you have already seen the photograph with which this whole journey of discovering this beautiful film started for me. So you already have some idea of what to expect).






John Maguire in his review of the film captures beautifully the beauty of the film in these words:

[Fanny’s] emotional journey becomes the engine of the film, as the poet and his poems fill the wondrously detailed background. This delicate treatment extends to the intimate pacing, which is carefully graduated to allow the chaste lovers to come together naturally. We know their love affair will not last, but Campion presents their joy in each other in such a precise and vibrant manner, that knowledge doesn’t intrude on the story.

There are poetic graces too in the telling, with Campion’s static camera searching out stolen frames of everyday life in the household, piling on the detail to create an immersive world. These moments are counterpoised with grand dramatic sweeps that climax in heaving gulps, a sun-dappled kiss, a heavy loss, a long separation. Campion favours a striking image to a page of dialogue, so conversations are short and sparse. Saying that, there is a fascinating scene early in the story where Keats responds to Fanny’s sincere questions about the proper understanding of poetry that seems to capture the meaning of the film itself. “A poem needs understanding through the senses”, the poet tells her. “The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore; it’s to be in the lake. You do not work the lake out. It is an experience beyond thought”. It’s not being overly lyrical to suggest that the same is true of Bright Star.

Yes, it is true. The film does feel like an experience beyond thought. At least to me in felt that way. As I am about to end this post, I am thinking that it might be time to repeat that experience…soon. And maybe another post will follow!

In the meantime, let me re-read Keats’ poem, Bright Star.

Bright Star


Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.
~ John Keats
(All pictures courtesy of Google)


Looking for readers’ comments? Click here for the previous version of this blog.

Linking this post with ABC Wednesday, K is for Keats.

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