View Full Version : Jane Campion's KEATS
London 1818: a secret love affair begins between 23 year old English poet, John Keats, and the girl next door, Fanny Brawne, an outspoken student of high fashion.
This unlikely pair began at odds, he thinking her a stylish minx, while she was unimpressed not only by his poetry but also by literature in general.
However, when Fanny heard that Keats was nursing his seriously ill younger brother, her efforts to help touched Keats and when she asked him to teach her about poetry, he agreed. The poetry soon became a romantic remedy that worked not only to sort their differences but also to fuel an impassioned love affair.
When Fanny?s alarmed mother and Keats? best friend finally awoke to their attachment, the relationship already had an unstoppable momentum. Intensely and helplessly absorbed in each other, the young lovers were swept deeply in to powerful new sensations, "I have the feeling as if I were dissolving", Keats wrote to her. Together they rode a wave of romantic obsession that only deepened as their troubles mounted.
When Keats fell ill a year later, the two young lovers faced not marriage but separation and a painfully frustrated love. In Keats? own poignant words, "forever panting and forever young".
Accueil - ARTE (http://www.arte.tv/fr/Videos-sur-ARTE-TV/2151166,CmC=2641868.html)
Had to study Keats and his selected letters for "A" levels when in London in 1968 or so. Reread his poems now and again but not for a long time. He did not write a lot of good ones, and some bum lines stand out when his complex rhyme schemes catch him. One I receall is:
... Isabella stood by the grave/ and Isabella did not stamp or rave.
And a good one to quote to a white male hanging around the corridors of power in South Africa:
"Oh what ails thee knight at arms, so alone and palely loitering"
(from La belle dame sans merci, which always gives me a cold shiver, even now)
I like to parody him to myself when bored: "My heart aches and a dowsy numbness pains my sense/ as if of some dull opiate I have drunk" - subsituting other body parts for "heart" and other drinks for "opiate".
But there is great power and sensuality in his best stuff - and spiritual depth too, amazing for his few years. Perhaps a growth forced by the love affair.
Liam, what did you think of the film? I was disappointed in it as it seemed to take for granted that everyone in the audience would know the poetry and the story of Keats' sad end. I wanted more poetry, more Keats, more consumption cough cough and less fashion show. It was very pretty, though, as your photo shows.
It was very pretty, though
Maybe that's the problem. I can't comment on this film as I couldn't make it and shall have to wait for the DVD. However, reading Christopher Ricks's article in The New York Review of Books has prepared me for it. And this is a bit of a hatchet job, as Ricks criticises the film in part because it underlines things too much, and leaves nothing to the imagination. I can't offhand think of Ricks's examples, but, say, we hear a thrush mentioned, then behold, we see a thrush in a tree, a fields of daisies, here's a field of daisies. To be honest, I think he's far too hard on Campion, as you can hardly expect her to be an expert on Romantic poetry, but at least I shall now watch this with a critical eye.
Liam, what did you think of the film? I was disappointed in it
Went to see it last week and was also disappointed. It had the worst failing a film can have for me, I found it boring.
I have seen other Campion films and found them good but this one just did not work for me.
I'm really tired that every movie these days is a biopic or true story.
Can't filmmakers invent things anymore?
And if it's not a biopic or a true story, it's based on a book. There really are fewer original scripts these days.
I intend to watch Bright Star at some point. I've been told it's very girly and visually pleasing. :)
Yeah, I'll probably watch it too :D How often do they make movies about Keats after all? But it's nice to rant some times...
I watched last night and I was also disapointed. I had exepected a lot more from the director of "An Angel at my table". It was as if Jane Campion didn't felt any connection with Keats.
Ok, everyboday knows that he was a great poet who died young but you cannot make an good movie based only on some known facts. You have to bring your own view on the subject, otherwise is just a well-made documentary.
I just watched the film today and was dissapointed too. I think the reason why one feels there is too much fashion is because Jane Campion chose to tell the story from Fanny´s point of view. It is not a film about Keats but about Fanny´s meeting with Keats.
I had hoped it to be in lines with the film "The hours" about Virginia Woolf´s novel "Mrs. Dalloway".
I too was disappointed by Campion's Keats. I hoped for more from the director of The Piano and the Janet Frame biog. An Angel at My Table
I'd started this thread before I saw the film, and then forgot all about it.
Unlike most of you here, I simply loved it! I can see Campion moving away from the grittier, more visceral dramas of the 90s (fingerless Holly Hunter, blood-bespattered Kate Winslet, locked in the trunk of a car) or the skewered, angry "social" dramas of the 80s (Sweetie, etc).
Bright Star is a gentle, quiet, almost innocent film in comparison. The drama here is not in the violence but in the sudden loss. I don't know. The scene where Fanny learns of Keats's death and her mother (beautifully portrayed by the actress who played Janet Frame in An Angel at My Table) helps her breathe, like a newborn child, raised the hair on the back of my neck. Beautiful, profound, and scary all at the same time. And the acting!
Additionally, I liked Campion's main point, that contrary to popular belief, a great poet's Muse doesn't have to be a mysterious, unattainable Dark Lady (Dante's Beatrice, Petrarch's Laura, Tennyson's Ellen, etc)--she could be an ordinary, slightly pretty girl, preoccupied with domestic problems but with a kind heart: devoted and true, a real human being.
The purity of the love affair in Campion's film is something not often seen in contemporary cinema, where even independent productions emulate Hollywood in throwing the main couple in between the sheets, either in the beginning or at the end.
There was also a definite parallel between the two creative acts: the poet Keats composing his poetry, Fanny making dresses; Keats marking white paper with black ink, Fanny stitching white linen with dark thread; etc.
I think what Campion posits here is that domesticity and creativity are often one and the same or, at the very least, quite indistinguishable.
And yeah, I was also confused before seeing the movie, like the rest of you, thinking that the "bright star" of the title was going to be Keats himself. It isn't. The bright star is Fanny.
I shall watch the film again as I have it on DVD. It is not that I do not think there are great scenes in the film, there are many. I just wish there was more about Keats. It would have given the film a better balance.
Perhaps it's just not your type of film? Which isn't either good or bad, it just is. Just like Citizen Kane, most unfortunately, isn't for me, despite its brilliance.
I just wish there was more about Keats. It would have given the film a better balance.Point taken, but I think the title already serves to imply that Fanny is to be the main character and that the story will be told through her eyes, not his. In the very first scene, we see her rising at dawn to sew. She stitches a white piece of linen and then abruptly cuts the thread. In the last scene, she leaves the house at sundown, having cut her hair, presumably with the same pair of scissors. So the narrative arc really does turn into a kind of loop, symbolically ending where it began, although Fanny is a different person at this point.
I happen to have watched the film over the weekend. I'd say it's well made, but perhaps limited by the uninterestingness of the subject. A poet or artist is one thing and his work is another. Keats's relationship with Fanny did not seem to me a good fit for him; she seemed conventional and materialistic next to his ethereal nature. What struck me about the film was how hard Keats's life was and how little he was helped by others. His friend Charles Brown came across as a self-centered boor. A film about Byron or Shelley would be more entertaining at least, though they led comparatively depraved lives. I was a little disappointed because The Piano is one of my favorite films.
It's difficult to make a film about a poet, because with some exceptions like Byron, who put himself about a bit, they become famous by sitting at a desk scratching with a quill on paper or banging away at their typewriter or typing on their word-processor, none of which is too exciting to watch. The film Shakespeare in Love had a bit of fun with this idea in the opening scene where Will is sitting struggling to write Romeo and Juliet and chucking screwed-up balls of paper at the bin.
Somebody should film Adam Foulds' novel The Quickening Maze, which has both John Clare and Tennyson and Tennyson's crazy brother, as well as the colourful inhabitants and warders of the local asylum, so you could do a Ken Kesey with that bunch.
I'm already seeing Johnny Depp as Clare and Bruce Willis as Tennyson.
Fanny... seemed conventional and materialistic next to his ethereal nature.I don't know, Paul. Conventional? Perhaps. But one of the points of the film, I think, is that Keats was drawn precisely to that conventionality, in which he saw what he himself lacked--health, vibrancy, life, and the promise of the future. But materialistic? That would imply that she was, first and foremost, after material possessions, including money, in which case she would have dumped Keats as an unpromising suitor very early on. The Fanny depicted in Campion's film is rather in love with domesticity, I would say, but the kind of domesticity she creates with her own hands. In other words, she is not simply a consumer of other people's labors--she actually MAKES the dresses she takes so much pride in wearing. Aside from that, the honesty as well as the intensity of her feelings for Keats are never questioned by Campion. It seemed that they were intensely drawn to each other, despite being, as it were, from different universes.
Charles Brown came across as a self-centered boor
There was a definite homoerotic component in the relationship between Keats and Brown, with Brown attempting to control the relationship down to the virtual exclusion of Fanny from Keats's life.
I was a little disappointed because The Piano is one of my favorite films.With the passing of Ingmar Bergman, Jane Campion has become my favorite living director. Despite her rather small body of work, her films (though different in style and subject matter) have never disappointed me once. The Piano is obviously a masterpiece, so perhaps it is unfair to judge all her previous as well as subsequent work by the greatness of that film alone? My personal top three favorites from Campion, so far, include Holy Smoke, Bright Star, and An Angel at My Table.
It's difficult to make a film about a poet, because [...] they become famous by [...] banging away at their typewriter
Yeah, it would have been much more filmable if Keats were banging away at Fanny.
Yeah, it would have been much more filmable if Keats were banging away at Fanny.Yeah, but that would destroy the chaste innocence of Campion's film, something she's "trying on" for the very first time. Most of her films are either sexually explicit or feature moments of morbid perversity (Osmond "fingering" Madame Merle in The Portrait of a Lady); An Angel at My Table is the only possible exception, but it was originally made for television and does contain full frontal nudity (obscured by water). You don't see so much as a nipple, whether male or female, in Bright Star.
Plenty of banging in In the Cut, though.
An Angel at My Table[/I][/B] is the only possible exception, but it was originally made for television and does contain full frontal nudity (obscured by water).
The odd thing is, I don't remember much about Campion's Frame outside of New Zealand, although I seem to remember that the only hint of sex there in Michael King's biography is with one of Frank Sargeson's mates (can't remember the name) in the hut, and she soon sent him packing.
But materialistic? That would imply that she was, first and foremost, after material possessions, including money, in which case she would have dumped Keats as an unpromising suitor very early on. The Fanny depicted in Campion's film is rather in love with domesticity, I would say, but the kind of domesticity she creates with her own hands. In other words, she is not simply a consumer of other people's labors--she actually MAKES the dresses she takes so much pride in wearing. Aside from that, the honesty as well as the intensity of her feelings for Keats are never questioned by Campion. It seemed that they were intensely drawn to each other, despite being, as it were, from different universes.
I meant materialistic in the literal sense of liking physical objects and wearing nice clothes all of the time. There isn't a single moment in the film in which she's badly dressed. She was also far less intellectual than Keats, as was demonstrated when Brown tricked her by asking about Milton's rhyme. It is impossible to tell how well their relationship would have worked if Keats had lived. Early deaths often romanticize and distort the views in posterity.
I think you're being too harsh with poor Fanny, :).
The fact that Keats continued to return to her, quite a number of times, even after he vowed to stay away (which, he thought, would be best for both of them), demonstrates that he was quite drawn to Fanny. She didn't have to be his intellectual equal, just like Brown didn't have to be his poetic equal (a fact which he, at one point, admits) to be his friend.
And although this was not in the film, Keats's sister Frances went to live with the Brawnes after her brother's death, and was also quite close with Fanny who, by that time, had learned enough Italian and German to start translating short stories for various English literary journals. The film rather accentuates her simplicity, I think, which is fine with me, as it is one of Campion's main points, but on the other hand it would be wrong simply to write Fanny off as an uneducated country-bumpkin.
Joanna Richardson published a very good and comprehensive biography of Fanny Brawne in 1952.
The Wikipedia entry on Fanny Brawne (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Brawne) makes much use of Richardson's book, so that might be a good place to start, too.
I think you're being too harsh with poor Fanny, :).This is, after all, a mere film, and Campion is just offering her interpretation of people and events. Fanny may well have been a better person in real life - all the primping turned me off, like most costume dramas.
This just in from The Guardian:
John Keats Letter to Fanny Brawne Set for Auction (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jan/25/john-keats-letter-auction)
A poignant letter in which the poet John Keats (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/johnkeats), already mortally ill, vowed to kiss Fanny Brawne's signature – since he could not kiss and risk infecting her – is to be auctioned with an estimated value of up to £120,000.
Keats corresponded daily with many friends who cherished the letters after his death in Rome at 26 from tuberculosis, which had already destroyed his brothers. All but a handful of the notes are now in museum and archive collections.
He was still living next door to Brawne in Hampstead when he wrote this one in 1820, but was often too ill to see her. He wrote on the envelope "you had better not come today", but assured her of what he could hardly have believed, having watched his brother Tom die: that "health is my expected heaven".
Later that year friends would take him to Rome in the desperate hope that a warmer climate might help. They reached the city after long delays on the journey in a particularly cold and foggy November, and he was dead within four months.
Keats and Brawne's love affair, and his letters, featured in the 2009 film Bright Star. The letters were regarded as remarkable by critics as well as his friends. Joseph Severn, the artist who was with Keats when he died, wrote that many of them "contained quite as fine poetry as any of his actual poems".
The collector and poet Roy Davids is selling the note along with more than 500 other manuscripts and portraits, including a letter from Sir Walter Raleigh, an essay by William Blake, an unpublished speech by Winston Churchill and a wealth of material relating to the late poet laureate Ted Hughes.
David said: "It is a mark of Keats's poetic genius and the power of his imagination that the words of this letter fall so naturally into the rhythm of verse. To own a manuscript by Keats is really the closest you can get to him both physically and mentally. In some degree it is an act of worship."
The collection will be auctioned by Bonham's in London in March.
Letter from John Keats to Fanny Brawne, 1820
My dearest Fanny
The power of your benediction is not of so weak a nature as to pass from the ring in four and twenty hours - it is like a sacred Chalice once consecrated and ever consecrate. I shall Kiss your name and mine where your Lips have been - Lips! why should such a poor prisoner as I am talk about such things. Thank God, though I hold them the dearest pleasures in the universe, I have a consolation independent of them in the certainty of your affectation. I could write a song in the style of Tom Moores Pathetic about Memory if that would be any relief to me. No. It would not be. I will be as obstinate as a Robin, I will not sing in a cage. Health is my expected heaven and you are the Houri - this word I believe is both singular and plural - if only plural never mind - you are a thousand of them.
Ever yours affectionately my dearest, j.k
Speak of the devil, :).
Presumably he doesn't mean "affectation" in the sense of "artificiality of manners," which was one of the current uses in 1820.
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