Bright Star was a must see. Not for the reasons one may generally assume, that by the DVD cover, the story is about love–a fact that wouldn’t deter me however–but that the story concerns a famous poet: and where famous poets are concerned, I am there to investigate the situation. I began watching English dramas many a years ago (aside from ongoing readings), and my previous adventure into movies about poets concerned the more recent Dylan Thomas; a movie called The Edge of Love.
In my latest stroll through the video store, I came across Bright Star, and I learned the movie is about the love shared between the famous English poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. The title Bright Star is the title of an impassioned love poem he wrote specifically for her. The movie is rich with brilliant cinematography and rustic scenes of young people dressed in the attire of the day.
The story itself, is very dramatic however, as the subject of Tuberculosis and the socio-economic problem is considered; these among, of course, the subject of love. What is most prominently known of TB, or as they used to call it, “consumption,” is that it is very contagious. Keats’s brother acquired the disease around his late teens, and the famous poet followed suit during his noble attempt to care for him. Concerning socio-economics, the aspect of his breakthrough talent equates the problem of his sales. To allow for some room to work without money worries, he went to live for free at a beautiful home with a friend, where he was able to write freely, and here, a love developed between the poet and a girl living next door. What is worth noting is how different just reading about these talented types, and actually seeing the expressions that must have arose on their faces in light of the threat of homelessness.
The movie does well at depicting his charming character, though my notes from class several years ago mentions something about his fights at an earlier age, possibly because of his size. But the movie also does very well at pointing out how his inability to make money relegates his love for Fanny to a mere dream incapable of fully materializing. (This is the famed problem of marriage Austen writes about in her stories, only this is a real life situation. Socio-economics outlined the option to marry; if a man was not able to provide for a woman, women were strongly urged to seek out marriages fit for livelihood, not love.) The two, however, are tied by deep strings, and though in reality, we know relatively little of their love, the time they spent together is known, and so the beautiful scene of the English fields must have provided the perfect backdrop for this unemployed poet to spend much time with his young, 19yr old friend.
The socio-economic problem hits hard, and Keats’s stay expires, where he is forced to leave, causing great distress for Fanny. A scene unfolds where Keats is found renting a horrid little room in London, and he begs Fanny to leave him. The movie shows him at her doorstep weeks later, in the bushes in the rain, coughing like crazy from TB, and the madness of how such a revered poet could have experienced such a life becomes all too unsettling. Reunited, Fanny’s love for him is as deep as ever, but he is forced to go to Italy, where the climate may help his TB. The disease gets him, and the most striking part of the movie occurs where one cannot help but feel the most ardent need to reach out to the person sitting next to them and hug for dear life.
John Keats died around age 25, and yet his low-station, his poverty, and his love for Fanny have somehow landed him as one of England’s most renowned poets. His critics devoured him at the time, and not until a few years later did other poets and critics realize the true brilliance of the young man. So the fable goes, one is never recognized until one is gone; but nevertheless, brace for this moderately paced movie to reveal how love can sometimes really hurt. Of my favorite story concerning this man and is passion for poetry, is the way in which he hoped to have never been revered, and that he wanted inscribed on his tombstone: “Here lies one, whose name was writ in water.”