Jane Campion’s Bright Star is one of my favorite films of 2009 so far, and I highly recommend it to everyone–especially literary types, romantics, or fans of good cinematography/period pieces.
I wrote a full review of the film for CT Movies, but here’s a brief excerpt:
The love story is one thing, but the romance of Bright Star is also in its visual splendor and all-around loveliness. Cinematographer Greig Fraser does a superb job photographing the pastoral English countryside in all seasons, the life and customs of Regency-era Britain, as well as smaller-scale details like the sensual beauty of hands touching or a needle weaving. This is the feeling of falling in love: lying on a bed as the window curtains flap wistfully in the warm spring breeze; climbing atop a flowering tree and lying between its branches and the sun-filled sky; composing letters to our distant love while sitting at a desk by a window looking out to the sea. We don’t need to have heaps of dialogue or sappy soliloquies to know that love is in the air for these characters. We must simply look at the butterflies in the grassy field in the same way these characters do, recognizing that love makes you love others and love things more. It makes you love life.
The film is elemental–almost phenomenological–in the way that it seamlessly weaves human love and drama into the material “fabric” of its setting: nature, food, bodies, dress. In Bright Star, the dressing isn’t the icing on the cake. It is the cake.
The film’s title comes from Keats’ poem of the same name, which you should take a moment to read:
Bright star, would I were steadfast 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 steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed 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 in death.
The film is an amazing expression of everything this poem is getting at with regard to existence, impermanence, nature and love. It’s a gorgeous, poetic, true film and one that Keats deserves.