Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bright Star

The takeaway message of Jane Campion's Bright Star seems to be that falling in love with a tubercular, romantic poet is ill-advised. John Keats dedicated the title poem to his lady love, Fanny Brawne:

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...
and on in that vein.


Jane Campion's film follows the doomed lover's romance from flirtation to tragic denoument. The film is subtly erotic but bursting with (dare I say it) romance! The heady,unconsumated, thrilling kind.

Also, Fanny is something of an sartorial rebel who makes her own clothes. This fact draws snickers and accusations of vanity -- seems that an interest in fashion was and still is read as a verdict of superficiality.

Costume designer Janet Patterson manages to make the empire dresses of the era less like the unsubstantial, Grecian-style flimsy frocks that one associates with film adaptations of Jane Austen novels, and more as structural and substantial. Fabrics and textures are apparent: Campion builds the character of Fanny and brings the era to life through attention to such detail. I've seen few films in which I am as conscious of the pattern, cut and construction of what its lead characters wear.

Needless to say, I adored Campion's film, and it had me reduced to embarrassing tears in my coach seat on a Buenos Aires-Mexico City flight.

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