The Velvet Café

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Archive for the ‘Bright Star’ Category

Movie kisses are overrated – or why movie love is best when miserable

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“… and so they lived happily together for the rest of their lives.”

This was the way fairy tales used to end when I grew up, way before Disney realized that girls actually dream of other things than marriage.

Nowadays I find most love stories with happy endings quite unbearable. Is there anything more boring than to see a couple wrapped up in their own little bubble of happiness? They obviously don’t care for anything but themselves. Why should I care about them?

The movie bloggers in Sweden run a blogathon every month and the theme of February was “love”. (I suspect that the upcoming Valentines’s Day might have something to do with this).

And the more I thought about the topic, the more I realized how dark I want my love movies to be.

You have to push me hard to come up with a love movie with a happy loving couple that I truly love. I suppose there are a few in Love Actually, but my favourite one in that movie is the miserable guy who communicates his unfulfilled love with cards. Then there’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is a bit in-between and not very clear about the prospects of the future. One of my favourite love couples in a movie last year was Only Lovers Left Alive. If you think about it, their relationship is pretty great. But their overall life situation isn’t.

So let’s have a look at my current favourite movie couples:

10. Perfect Sense
Susan and Michael fall in love. Unfortunately the world is coming to its end meanwhile. It’s just a shame that I don’t know of anyone else apart from me who has seen this film.

roman holiday
9. Roman Holiday
Joe and Princess Ann fail badly in overcoming the class divide.

8. Never Let Me Go
As if a dystopian society wasn’t enough, poor Kathy and Tommy are separated from each other because of jealousy.

7. Bright Star
Fanny Brawne and John Keats, seperated by a wall of financial issues and disease. The further away they are from each other, the more I root for them.
brief enc

6. Brief Encounter
There isn’t much physical contact between Laura and Dr Alec during their brief encounters at a railway station café. But this means that every little touch will mean something. Oh, that touch on the shoulder – immensely more erotic than any intercourse possibly could be. The impossible love is the sweetest one.


5. Brokeback Mountain
Ennis and Jack. Do I really need to say anything? Isn’t this the most heart breaking love movie ever?


4. The Bridges of Madison County
Robert and Fransesca – competing with Brokeback mountain for the title “Most tear provoking love movie ever). It’s a shame that it appears so rarely on people’s top lists.

3. Lost in Translation

I’m not entirely sure of the nature of the relationship between Charlotte and Bob, what to make of the food holding scene and exactly what words that were uttered in their final meeting. Regardless what, they’re my favourite platonic love couple evs.


2. The Remains of the Day
Miss Kenton and Mr Stevens. Every time I watch this movie I can’t help hoping that you’ll step out of your comfort zones, cross the barriers and confess your love to each other. Miracles DO happen, right?


1. Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight
Oh, Jessie. Oh, Celine. Unlike most couples on my top list, you aren’t doomed. Your relationship is worth saving, though it will require some effort. Please, please give it a try!

Separation, yearning, death and disaster, misery and melancholy. There you are, my favourite ingredients for love movies. And all movie kisses are overrated, unless they’re performed in a sense of danger and desperation.




Here are the takes on love in movies by my fellow bloggers (in Swedish):

Fiffis filmtajm
Fripps filmrevyer
Har du inte sett den?
The Nerd Bird
Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord

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

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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