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My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 3:32 pm
by Raphael
Bright Star review.

I’ve seen it! Oh where to start? It was as beautiful and moving as I had anticipated from seeing the clips. I think Abbie and Ben were remarkable in showing the flowering love between John and Fanny- very believable; it didn’t look and feel like acting but seemed real. These two have portrayed the most credible on screen lovers I’ve ever seen- every look, touch, gesture was so heartfelt. And Abbie’s portrayal of Fanny’s explosion of emotion when she is told John is dead was incredible in its raw intensity. As she crumpled at the foot of the stairs sobbing her heart out I don’t know how I didn’t break down myself! (I did shed some tears though...) It was painful to watch. I think it is entirely possible that Fanny had poured out her grief in this choking panicked way. (It was as though she had taken on one of her beloved’s sufferings- the difficulties in breathing- in her grief and love for him. As his life had been choked out of him her grief chokes out similarly. If they had included the line in one of his letters “I cannot breathe without you,” this could have had even more impact).

I loved the way their romance starts with him laughing at her playfully and calling her ”minx” as we know he did. We can see how their feelings grow by the expression in their eyes and the way they start to shyly and tentatively get to know each other- again the actors are faultless in showing this. I think we are being shown how Fanny grew as a person by knowing John- he introduced her to new ways of being and thinking, and she in turn brought out his playfulness.

I found John’s confession of his difficulties with women to Fanny to be admirable- honest, sweet and moving. It was also true to John’s character and instead of it revealing a flaw in him; it showed how he was so self aware and good hearted that he truly wanted to change in this respect. I wonder if he really did discuss this with her? The inclusion of her coming to him for “poetry lessons” was sweet and a nice way for them to grow closer and indicative of Fanny’s desire to learn to understand the man she was falling in love with... Perhaps she did spend time with him in this way.

The inclusion of the gathering of the gentleman’s music group and John’s “bassoon” was fun and again true to his character.

I loved the way Ben as John caresses the wall between the two of them, the way they move their beds against the dividing wall to be closer to each other at night and how they cuddle on the sofa with John’s head on Fanny’s breast and he laughs and asks her to stop teasing him and calls her a minx (again) affectionately.

I loved the way Fanny reads his letter and when she reads the words “moistened and bedewed with Pleasures,” whispers them out loud; I have often thought that such words must have stirred her by their sensuality and passion! Jane Campion has given us Fanny as I think she might well have been- one who had depth and was devoted to John once she had fallen deeply in love with him (which I think she did).


Their last day together is so heartbreaking and yet sensual when he tells her in effect, how he’d like to make love to her and how, and she whispers in response (and total acceptance of his desire) “everything.” Their desire for each other here is the most poignant.

On a slightly critical note: I think Charles Brown was portrayed rather worse a character than he actually was- yes we know he didn’t like Fanny at first (but that changed after John died) and he did stir up trouble writing her that silly Valentine card, but I don’t think (from what I’ve read anyway) that he was as mean to her as shown in the film. He had his faults- he wasn’t with John at the end and he used Abigail, but was he really this obnoxious? I found myself muttering, “Shut up! “ When John starts to tell Fanny about Negative Capability and Brown interrupts with sarcastic comments. I was really enjoying the explanation of it and bloody Brown ruins the moment!

I think Ben and Abbie portrayed John and Fanny with great respect to these tragic young people; this I noticed affected the audience. Everyone stayed to the end credits to quietly listen to Ben reciting Ode to a Nightingale (which sounded so wonderful read out loud- the impact of John’s poems read out loud is more than when one reads them silently in one’s head!). The mood in the cinema felt as though people were paying their respects- it was tangible. I can honestly say I’ve never felt this in any cinema at the end of a film before). As my mother and I got up to put our coats on I noticed a couple behind me (aged in their 40s) and the man was looking at her intently, respectfully and quietly as she was silently weeping. I looked at her and said gently, “You too eh?” and she nodded and got a tissue out of her bag and wiped her eyes. I wiped mine. I asked her if she liked John’s works and she nodded. “He was the best, “I said, and she nodded again. As she got up and started to leave I called to her to keep enjoying John’s poems. She smiled.

Even my mother, who doesn’t know much about John (though I had showed her his poems in the café we went to for a coffee beforehand, and his portrait which I have stuck inside my book), was a bit moved. She let out an “ah” when Toots says to John “I love you,” “Ah… she loves him,” my mother whispered to me. “Everyone loved him, “I whispered back tearfully.

I’ll finish this rather lengthy review on another slightly critical note, though it isn’t meant unkindly- Ben’s portrayal of John was as I’ve said very moving, sensitive and beautiful, (Ben is very attractive though of course he doesn’t look at all like John Keats) but from what I’ve read about him I get the impression he acted more passionately than Ben showed him to be. I mean I have imagined him kissing Fanny in a more passionate way, perhaps even caressing her more intimately than is shown in this film, telling her he loves her frequently, and using very ardent words. He certainly used them in his letters and I’ve read that people witnessed him sobbing a few times over his despair at knowing he couldn’t marry her due to his consumption and lack of income. I’ve imagined John speaking with passion to Fanny, overwrought at times in his despair and her saying calm and gentle things to him in response. In the film Fanny is shown as the one who is crying and at times impassioned, rather than him. His sexual torment isn’t shown much here, if at all.

Oh, and Joseph Severn is hardly given any time, considering he was the one who nursed John till the end and is shown spilling his tea and looking a bit wimpy, which we know he wasn’t. I’m glad they didn’t show John dying in Italy though (merely keeping to the funeral procession) - that really would have been too much to bear to see that. They even kept the effects of his consumption minimal in the film; I suppose because it was so harrowing. His collapse outside Wentworth Place was really enough to show how ill he was.

So- a beautiful, moving film, made with great respect to John Keats; it is bound to win some awards. I hope that as a result of Bright Star people will read his poems and be enriched, moved and inspired by his genius; as long as his words continue to be read and loved he’ll never be forgotten.

Bless you John Keats, wherever you may be now.

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 5:27 pm
by Malia
Thanks for your heartfelt review, Raphael :)
I agree with you on just about all respects--especially your critique of Ben's portrayal of Keats. Now, Ben Whishaw is one of my favorite actors and he is *extremely* talented, so I have no criticism about his ability to play Keats--rather, my criticism is about some of the choices that were made in his portrayal.

Keats was somewhat reserved in his nature--he *was* the king of understatement; consider his comment to Brown when he first coughed up blood "this is unfortunate"--it bore absolutely zero relation to the depth of his feelings at that moment. However, he was an extremely passionate man, as well. He worked *hard* to keep his emotions in control because he knew that they were powerful and could perhaps frighten people if let loose. He says in a late letter to Fanny Brawne (when he is so ill that he has trouble governing his passions) "For god's sake save me, or tell me my passion is of too awful a nature for you" (Letter to FB May 1820). We certainly see how "awful" his passions could become as he grew sicker and less able to govern those passions. Poor Severn got the brunt of Keats's emotional hurricane in Italy when Keats had no power or inclination to control his passions at all. Then, as one of Keats's biographers said, Severn was swept into the "alien, tragic world" of Keats's wrecked psyche.

I think Whishaw does a fine job of showing the reserved aspects of Keats's nature--how he *tries* to govern his feelings. He also displays the gentlemanly nature that Keats's friends and acquaintances knew in him. Unfortunately, Whishaw is just too accomplished at this show of self-control. We get a sense of the depth of Keats's emotions through Whishaw's wonderfully expressive eyes--but no more than that. If I didn't already know the story of Keats and Fanny, I might think that Whisahw's Keats didn't really love Fanny as much as she loved him--that he was ambivalent in his love (which we know by his letters that he certainly was not--although he was, to a certain extent, "afraid" of this love and its potential power to unravel his creative ability and perhaps to even hasten tuberculosis, as Keats felt unfulfilled love had hastened Tom's disease).

I would have liked to have seen more overt passionate expression from Keats--even if it is when he and Fanny are somewhat alone (they are hardly alone throughout the whole film, though). I would have liked to have experienced more of the "pull-push" of Keats's passions; he seemed to love her without reserve and accuse her of betrayal--or the threat of betrayal--in the same breath in many of his letters. I would have liked to have seen more of that in his portrayal. Actually, Ben Whishaw thought more of that was needed, too (he spoke of Keats's jealous nature in an interview once) but he realized that it was not within Campion's vision to have Keats be too sharp-edged. Campion saw Keats as almost an angel, and while Keats had his good qualities, I personally have never seen him as "angelic" or even "virginal". So, I think Whishaw did what he was meant to do for the movie's vision, but in the process he kind of watered down Keats's passion.

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 5:56 pm
by Raphael
Thanks for your heartfelt review, Raphael :)
I agree with you on just about all respects--especially your critique of Ben's portrayal of Keats. Now, Ben Whishaw is one of my favorite actors and he is *extremely* talented, so I have no criticism about his ability to play Keats--rather, my criticism is about some of the choices that were made in his portrayal.


Thanks for reading it dear Malia x
This is the first time I've seen Ben Whishaw act and I think he is super talented. It's nice to see another new up and coming Brit actor- there must be something in the name Ben as there's also the equally talented Ben Barnes ( who was in Dorian Gray). Both these two young men are amazing and are really great in period films.

Keats was somewhat reserved in his nature--he *was* the king of understatement; consider his comment to Brown when he first coughed up blood "this is unfortunate"--it bore absolutely zero relation to the depth of his feelings at that moment.


Oh I kind of missed that- yes he could be reserved too.

However, he was an extremely passionate man, as well. He worked *hard* to keep his emotions in control because he knew that they were powerful and could perhaps frighten people if let loose.


I missed this too- in my readings of the bios.It passed me by if you know what I mean.

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 6:03 pm
by Raphael
Sorry I have to do this in two halves- every so often this board goes a bit askew- flashing cursor, and one cannot type past a certain point as it jumps and the quote doesn't work.

He says in a late letter to Fanny Brawne (when he is so ill that he has trouble governing his passions) "For god's sake save me, or tell me my passion is of too awful a nature for you" (Letter to FB May 1820). We certainly see how "awful" his passions could become as he grew sicker and less able to govern those passions. Poor Severn got the brunt of Keats's emotional hurricane in Italy when Keats had no power or inclination to control his passions at all. Then, as one of Keats's biographers said, Severn was swept into the "alien, tragic world" of Keats's wrecked psyche.


Yes, I've read the letter about "awful passions"- I wonder in what way he thought his passion could be awful ? But evidently Fanny could cope with it, whatever it was. I don't think it was anything bad, perhaps intense, and probably due to him being so ill (which is so understandable when he knew he was dying and felt so physically bad and felt so hopeless). I think Severn knew that John by this time could not hold anything back due to the dying process and it showed how much he cared- he didn't give up caring for him. It must have been harrowing for both of them.

I think Whishaw does a fine job of showing the reserved aspects of Keats's nature--how he *tries* to govern his feelings. He also displays the gentlemanly nature that Keats's friends and acquaintances knew in him. Unfortunately, Whishaw is just too accomplished at this show of self-control. We get a sense of the depth of Keats's emotions through Whishaw's wonderfully expressive eyes--but no more than that. If I didn't already know the story of Keats and Fanny, I might think that Whisahw's Keats didn't really love Fanny as much as she loved him--that he was ambivalent in his love (which we know by his letters that he certainly was not--although he was, to a certain extent, "afraid" of this love and its potential power to unravel his creative ability and perhaps to even hasten tuberculosis, as Keats felt unfulfilled love had hastened Tom's disease).


I agree with what you said there.

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 6:17 pm
by Raphael
Sorry - the page is limiting what I can post at one time- it keeps jumping back after a
certain point.

I would have liked to have seen more overt passionate expression from Keats--even if it is when he and Fanny are somewhat alone (they are hardly alone throughout the whole film, though). I would have liked to have experienced more of the "pull-push" of Keats's passions; he seemed to love her without reserve and accuse her of betrayal--or the threat of betrayal--in the same breath in many of his letters. I would have liked to have seen more of that in his portrayal. Actually, Ben Whishaw thought more of that was needed, too (he spoke of Keats's jealous nature in an interview once) but he realized that it was not within Campion's vision to have Keats be too sharp-edged. Campion saw Keats as almost an angel, and while Keats had his good qualities, I personally have never seen him as "angelic" or even "virginal". So, I think Whishaw did what he was meant to do for the movie's vision, but in the process he kind of watered down Keats's passion.


Yes, I think all this was later on when he was in the grip on consumption, when he must have felt so afraid that she would leave him.Perhaps Jane didn't want to go into this insecurity John had- but it doesn't make him look bad or flawed- it was a natural effect of being so ill- apparently the lack of oxygen he would have been getting would have resulted in him at times not being able to fully comprehend what was happening around him, poor thing. I think actually John was despite whatever flaws he had, so admirable a person because he was aware of them ( even at times when he was mentally and physically tormented towards the last few days of his life)- he always strived to keep growing and spiritually developing himself. Brwon even said that John "had no faults" and I think this means that he was someone who was very conscious of himself. That makes him so worthy, perhaps not angelic but then I find this word inapt to describe people anyway. So the result was as you say to water down his passion- but yet they didn't waterdwon Fanny's!

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 4:38 am
by BrokenLyre
Thanks for your review and thought of the movie, Raphael. Always a pleasure to hear from others what they think. After I had seen the movie a number of times, I realized that I was responding to the movie at 4 separate levels. I wonder if anyone else had that same sense as I did. The four levels to which I felt a certain awareness and emotional response were as follows:

1) The movie itself - the characters, the script, the visuals, the sounds, the plot line.
2) My knowledge of certain aspects of Keats's life and writing which the movie evoked for me, but was not shown.
3) My remembrances of my own history with Keats's writings and life.
4) My own personal, deeply felt reflections of my own history with Keats's life and work.

It was the combination of all these factors that so struck me as I watched the film. The movie is fine, but when combined with my Keats knowledge, my history with Keats, and my own deep experiences with Keats's work, I could hardly recover. I don't mean to get so analytical here, but I wondered why this movie struck me so powerfully. And that's the reason. I guess the movie struck Apollo's lyre which happened to be tied to my own heart.

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:52 pm
by Raphael
BrokenLyre wrote:Thanks for your review and thought of the movie, Raphael. Always a pleasure to hear from others what they think. After I had seen the movie a number of times, I realized that I was responding to the movie at 4 separate levels. I wonder if anyone else had that same sense as I did. The four levels to which I felt a certain awareness and emotional response were as follows:

1) The movie itself - the characters, the script, the visuals, the sounds, the plot line.
2) My knowledge of certain aspects of Keats's life and writing which the movie evoked for me, but was not shown.
3) My remembrances of my own history with Keats's writings and life.
4) My own personal, deeply felt reflections of my own history with Keats's life and work.

It was the combination of all these factors that so struck me as I watched the film. The movie is fine, but when combined with my Keats knowledge, my history with Keats, and my own deep experiences with Keats's work, I could hardly recover. I don't mean to get so analytical here, but I wondered why this movie struck me so powerfully. And that's the reason. I guess the movie struck Apollo's lyre which happened to be tied to my own heart.


Hmmm..I think for me I was just following the story of John and Fanny, observing how the actors were fitting in with what I've read of them, how I have percieved them, my engagement with John, his work and his lifestory.So similar to you. I got very involved in the film- so much so that I was not thinking of anyhting else but John and Fanny the whole time it was on.Is there anything you would like to have seen covered in the film which wasn't? I'd have liked to see at least one visit to Abbey.
Also, I forgot to mention, the film did give the impression Tom was esconced in some dingy place with a nurse whilst John was having fun with Brown, and we know that wasn't the case.

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:24 am
by BrokenLyre
Yes, I agree ... John was living with Tom while he had TB in Well Walk (I believe, but not completely sure I remember) in the fall of 1818. You ask if there was something I would like to have seen; a great question. I would like to have seen more of Keats' circle of friends in actual dialog with John. I would like to have seen Fanny Keats at least once and the affection John had for her. How wonderful that would have been to show his family more. And I would have liked to have seen Keats with his publishers Taylor and Hessey. That would be great. And I wouldn't mind seeing Severn more in Rome (but that would have made for a different movie).

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:08 pm
by Raphael
BrokenLyre wrote:Yes, I agree ... John was living with Tom while he had TB in Well Walk (I believe, but not completely sure I remember) in the fall of 1818. You ask if there was something I would like to have seen; a great question. I would like to have seen more of Keats' circle of friends in actual dialog with John. I would like to have seen Fanny Keats at least once and the affection John had for her. How wonderful that would have been to show his family more. And I would have liked to have seen Keats with his publishers Taylor and Hessey. That would be great. And I wouldn't mind seeing Severn more in Rome (but that would have made for a different movie).


Yes, John was living alone with Tom whilst he wrote Isabella. The film gives the impression he hung out with Brown and noone else, but that wasn't so- he had many friends. It would have been nice to see his sister yes, as she and Miss Brawne were close later on. And no George Keats either- it was like he didn't exist and John was soooo close to him - he was his best friend, the one he confided in the most. I would have liked to have seen the argument John had with the publishers over the changes he wanted to make to The Eve of St Agnes!
I don't know about the Rome bit- I would have found that way too upsetting- even seeing a photo of the room in Rome they stayed in cuts me up.

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 2:10 pm
by keatsclose
Raphael -

I agree with your review, and found the way Brown was presented as deeply unpleasant - a case of REALLY bad casting.
I wanted to wring his neck from his very first appearance. Deeply unpleasant from the word go.

Also, a chronological query:
I did wonder about Brown - somewhat gloatingly - telling Fanny that John had 'gone to Chichester', while biographers tell us that it was actually he,
Brown, who accompanied him there at around that time. Perhaps I should see the film again to verify this - but no hint of Brown accompanying him
was given.

Keats and Brown enjoyed, we are told (Motion, Gittings), socialising there with some friends of Brown's and, among other things,
attending card parties given by some elderly ladies. A plaque commemorating Keats's stay can be seen in what is now called Eastgate Square in the area known as The Hornet.
A visit to the cathedral precincts also supplied much of the details of The Eve of St Agnes, which is quoted briefly in the film shortly after Keats's return to Hampstead.

Abbie Cornish is especially wonderful in the film - surely a Best Actress nominee.

And Topper the cat - another 'bright star' , who stole some of the scenes.

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 3:30 pm
by Malia
I think Brown was fairly well cast--for the purposes of the movie, at any rate. He is meant to be a strong figure in a man-and-woman-fighting-over- man love triangle. I agree that he is portrayed a little "over-the-top," almost a characature (sp?) of Brown, highlighting his faults in a way that adds both humor and drama. I always saw the movie and its characters as coming from *Fanny's* perspective and I expect she would see the protective Brown as a bit of a pompous jerk.

I was a little perturbed that they gave him a Scottish accent when he is of Scottish *ancestry* and was actually born and pretty much raised in England. But I can see why this character is the way he is; he needs to be a bit of a brute to be a good foil for Fanny. I think he would have been less "cartoonish" had he just dropped the Scottish accent and gone with an English one. However, his brutishness isn't *too* far off the mark; Brown was most definitely a misogynist who got his maid pregnant and then married her in a Catholic ceremony (not legally recognized) so that he could eventually take the child for himself and send the woman packing. Not a pretty portrait of Brown, but historically accurate.

Brown *was* also highly jealous of Keats and he tried to keep Keats and Fanny away from each other while Keats was convalescing at Wentworth Place by flirting with her in a rough and rude manner and sending her inappropriate Valentines. This made Keats extremely upset (I wish he'd been a little more openly upset in the film, but that's another commentary! LOL). Brown was also the kind of person to make enemies if he felt he or a friend was slighted--especially regarding money matters. Thus, after Keats's death, he considered George a consummate enemy for the rest of his life--even after George paid all of Keats's posthumous debts.

I don't remember the Chichester comment in the movie, but it is true that they went together in real life to visit Brown's friends the Snooks, right? And Keats stayed on about 2 extra weeks by himself in order to rid himself of his "plaugey" sore throat.

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:00 pm
by Saturn
...caricature... :wink:

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:39 pm
by Malia
Mahalo a nui loa, e Saturn! (That's Hawaiian for Thanks a bunch!) Funny, I know how to spell in Hawaiian, but English. . .sigh. . .

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:47 pm
by Saturn
Your country is still young, eventually you'll learn how to speak English proper like what we does :mrgreen:

Re: My Bright Star review and impressions

PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:56 pm
by Raphael
I agree with your review, and found the way Brown was presented as deeply unpleasant - a case of REALLY bad casting.
I wanted to wring his neck from his very first appearance. Deeply unpleasant from the word go.


My mum didn't like Brown at all lol..but OF COURSE she liked our dear poet! :D

Also, a chronological query:
I did wonder about Brown - somewhat gloatingly - telling Fanny that John had 'gone to Chichester', while biographers tell us that it was actually he,
Brown, who accompanied him there at around that time. Perhaps I should see the film again to verify this - but no hint of Brown accompanying him
was given.



I'll check the letters book I borrowed from the library tonight- I've been reading it every night- aren't his letters so interesting to read? He had such character and was quite funny too- witty and self deprecating.I really get a window into regency life from reading his letters.


Keats and Brown enjoyed, we are told (Motion, Gittings), socialising there with some friends of Brown's and, among other things,
attending card parties given by some elderly ladies. A plaque commemorating Keats's stay can be seen in what is now called Eastgate Square in the area known as The Hornet.
A visit to the cathedral precincts also supplied much of the details of The Eve of St Agnes, which is quoted briefly in the film shortly after Keats's return to Hampstead.


I was reading a letter last night about such a party and how Brown charmed the old ladies..and they said Brown was handsome lol


Code: Select all
Abbie Cornish is especially wonderful in the film - surely a Best Actress nominee.


Agreed!

And Topper the cat - another 'bright star' , who stole some of the scenes


It did- but then it was getting petted by Ben a lot ( who we know loves cats...) so it was happy...