Bright Star

is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen about a poet.
The people who make movies in general do better with composers
— you’re going to need background music anyway. You can
actually have background poetry in some cases, as the reading of
Ode to a Nightingale over the closing credits of this movie
demonstrates, but it’s less common. But often they just take some
event in the poet’s life that could be part of the plot of a movie
and write that movie without using anything at all about the poetry.

What makes this a good movie about a poet is that there’s
ordinary dialog (well-written, but not transcendent), which is
then echoed in a recitation of one of the poems (which is
transcendent). Keats is making love to Fanny, and says
something like “I need a better word for you than bright, or
soft.” And several scenes later, he’s reading her:

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,
   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.

I was also really impressed with the costumes. It’s the Jane
Austen era, set between 1818 and 1821, so you have lots of
supposedly authentic BBC examples to compare them with. But
these costumes were made by someone who really likes looking at
fabric draped over the human body. Apparently the costume
designer used actual antique fabrics or copies.

Costume design was the only Academy Award this film was
nominated for. I’m not sure all the people nominated for Best
Actor and Best Actress were actually better than the two leads
in this film. And I haven’t yet seen the other films nominated
for Best Costume Design, but I liked this one well enough that
I’ll be rooting for it anyway.

One thought on “Bright Star”

  1. Pingback: Coco before Chanel

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