Film Club watches “Bright Star”

Film Club watches “Bright Star” | 30/04/2016 | 3:00 pm-5:00 pm

Bright star

Bright Star, film by Jane Campion.

With this account of John Keats’s love affair with Fanny Brawne, played by Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish, Campion has made a fine and even ennobling film: defiantly, unfashionably about the vocation of romantic love. She has Whishaw and Cornish actually recite poetry – which, for most actors, is as difficult as walking on your hands or juggling with knives – and even proposes a kind of secular martyrdom for them in the movie’s final act. Their love is murdered by the false choice between love and art, and sacrificed to a petty tangle of money worries, social scruples and irrelevant male loyalties.

The movie is vulnerable to mockery or irony from pundits who might feel that Campion has neglected to acknowledge the primal force of sex, or from those who feel their appreciation of the poet exceeds that of the director. Nonetheless, I think it is a deeply felt and intelligent film, one of those that has grown in my mind on a second viewing; it is almost certainly the best of Campion’s career, exposing The Piano as overrated and overegged.

Very few films allow you to listen to the sounds of silence, or near-silence, between the lines of dialogue: the sounds of birdsong, or the rustle of clothing, or footfalls in a country lane – but that is what Campion’s does. Her film proceeds at a quiet, measured tempo and with a lucid calm. Another type of film would have supercharged its narrative moments with surging music and the engine-roar of dramatic acceleration, but Campion simply lets each scene unspool evenly. There is something coolly unobtrusive about her cinematic staging. Silently reading a letter in a picture-window is allowed no more ostensible weight than the flirtatious conversation at a ball, or even the final announcement of Keats’s death. And the action of the film proceeds largely within the summery pastures of 19th-century Hampstead, occasionally switching to the crowded squalor of Kentish Town. When Campion suddenly takes us to Keats’s silent funeral procession in Rome’s deserted Piazza   di Spagna, it is the nearest thing to a flourish that she allows herself. But what a brilliant coup.

Screening begins at 15:00 sharp. This activity is free of charge for all library members. Please reserve sign up at the front desk in advance. A discussion in English will follow the film.

Location: The library