The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

I took a plunge into a sea of love, flowers and poetry

with 19 comments


Fanny: I still don’t know how to work out a poem.

John: A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving into a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out; it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept the mystery.

Fanny: I love mystery.

I am not a keen poetry reader, nor am I a poet.

Not that I don’t wish I was one. Poetry readers always appeared to me to me like a different kind of species, more delicate, sensitive and cultivated than the rest of us.

I’m a simpleminded consumer of novels and occasional short stories, and I usually need to hold on to something to immerse myself: an intriguing story, an interesting character, a place in time and space that I want to visit.

My first instinct as I plunge into a text, either it’s short or long, is to look for the map and work out the destination and how to get there. It doesn’t occur to me that I could allow myself to have a rest, to just lie in the water and let the waves and the words carry me wherever they want to go.

Can such an un-poetic person enjoy a film that is all about poetry?

Impossible love
This was to be tested the other night when I jumped into the water of Bright Star, Jane Campion’s film from 2009 about the romance between the 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.

This is another take on the classic love story that we’ve been told over and over again through history and that we never grow tired of being told about. It’s about “impossible love” between two lovers made for each other, kept apart by destiny and decisions taken by people around them, trying to “help” them to come to their senses.

The outcome is known from the beginning as in most biopics. John Keats died at age 25, so we know this is not going to turn out well.

But the destination isn’t the point here. More than it’s about showing events leading to an outcome, it’s about capturing a state of mind and sharing an experience with the viewer, reminding us of what it is like to fall in love.

I haven’t heard as much poetry read to me for years. As a matter of fact it feels like most of the words that are uttered are poetry. When they’re not reading John Keats poems aloud, they’re writing poetic, yearning love letters to each other, or talking to each other in such a beautiful way that you’re not sure if this is supposed to be an authentic conversation or if they’re just quoting poetry.

Visual poetry
But even if many beautiful words are spoken, the true poetry in this film lies in the visuals. It’s absolutely stunning. The costumes, the breathtaking sceneries, the light and the attention to detail with observations of flowers, butterflies and grass tell me more about the intensity and beauty of the love they feel than ever so many verbal declarations could do.

This is by no means an explicit film; most of the time the couple is kept apart one way or another. But you know what: sex acts on the screen are usually more tedious than exiting. Fanny putting her chins tight to the wall to be closer to John, who is doing the same thing from the other side. Unspoken words, looks of longing and despair, the briefest of touches, it all adds to the electricity that only an unfulfilled attraction can provoke. When they finally kissed, which is as advanced as they ever get, I couldn’t help letting out a little sigh of satisfaction.

I don’t’ read much poetry and I’m not a poet. But I dived into Bright Star and let myself be swept away by the beauty. I have no regrets.

Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

June 28, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Bright Star

19 Responses

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  1. Such a beautiful review for a beautiful film – thank-you, Jessica!

    • Thank you Melissa! Seeing the appreciation this film had gotten from others I had high hopes for it, and it certainly lived up to all my expectations and even exceeded them.


      June 28, 2012 at 10:25 am

  2. I’ve been wanting to see this for quite some time Jessica. I’m a big fan of Campion’s film’s, although I’ve yet to see a couple. I loved The Piano and Holy Smoke but I’ve always been drawn to this one. I write the occasional piece of (poor) poetry but my creative side lies in painting. For that reason, I can identify with that ever present feeling or need to create something… Something worthwhile, meaningful or beautiful. I very rarely ever achieve it but I have the utmost respect for those that do. I must see this.

    Mark Walker

    June 28, 2012 at 1:52 am

    • I really think you should see this. It’s really not only about poetry, but about creativity overall. What’s so wonderful about it is how it shows that Fanny while not acknowledged by the art establishment is as much of an artist as John, only that she has a different outlet for her creativity designing clothes.

      It really is inspirational for anyone to express themselves, be it in gardening, sewing, poetry, painting or music.


      June 28, 2012 at 10:27 am

  3. Roses are red,
    Violets are Blue…..

    That is far as I got in poetry!!

    Not a film I would go out of my way to see, but as ever you make a very good case!! Thanks Jessica

    • Bummer! I wasn’t persuasive enough Scott? To be honest I’m not sure if this is your cup of tea. But maybe you’d like to watch it with your wife if you’re up for some romantic inspiration.


      June 28, 2012 at 10:30 am

  4. I’ve heard of this film, but never seen it. Now, I so want to. nice work Jess. You’re slowly turning me into a woman. 😉


    June 28, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    • Glad if it can serve as a bit of inspiration. Tbh I think poetry, beauty and romance is – or should be – gender independent.

      I just like to have a very varied movie diet. One day it’s space travel, the next day it’s an old silent film and the next day again: lavish romance like this. That way I never get tired of watching movies!


      June 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm

  5. Lovely review for a beautiful film. The dialogue was very poetic indeed which was only aplified by delicate images that accompanied it. To this day I don’t understand why Abbie Cornish didn’t get more recognition for her wonderful performance.


    June 30, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    • Thanks Sati! She is wonderful and so was Ben Whishaw as Keats. I’ve never heard of him before, but I’m definitely going to check him out in the future.


      July 1, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      • You should see Perfume, he was really great in this one and the movie was interesting to say the least.


        July 2, 2012 at 2:08 am

        • I actually have seen it, but it’s been a while so I didn’t connect that it was the same actor.


          July 2, 2012 at 8:07 am

  6. Great post, Jessica! Haven’t seen the film but judging from the picture above, the visuals really are stunning!


    July 2, 2012 at 3:08 am

    • They are. If you have any sense at all for romancy I recommend it.


      July 2, 2012 at 8:07 am

  7. This sounds like a gorgeous movie, and I love what you said in the next to last paragraph. Subtle onscreen chemistry can be so much “hotter” than explicit sex, and you articulated this beautifully.


    July 3, 2012 at 1:52 am

    • Thanks Stephanie. This movie is steamy in a subtle way. I really recommend you try it out if you like this kind of romance.


      July 3, 2012 at 9:54 am

  8. I need to rewatch this again. I saw it with my girlfriends and for some reason it hampered my appreciation for it. I wasn’t as taken as I would have been if I had seen it myself I think. I’m not into poetry either Jessica but the words in Keats’ letters are sooo beautiful, oh man I think it’s such a lost art these days. The visuals are indeed gorgeous, I want to buy that poster of Fanny sitting in a field of blue flowers… it’s sooo gorgeous!


    July 3, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    • Go ahead and rewatch it. I think this is excellent to watch on your own or possibly with your loved one. No more than that. You need space to just dive into contemplation over everything beautiful in the world. And yes I loved that immage of Fanny. That’s why I made this a big one. Couldn’t resist!


      July 3, 2012 at 11:12 pm

  9. […] authors and love with hindrance on the way, I would rather recommend you to see Jane Campion’s Bright Star. See there’s a love story you really believe and engage in! And no dickishness, at least not from […]

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