Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It was actually rather dim

Given my love of all things British, here I was thinking that the film Bright Star about the star crossed romance between the poet John Keats and his unfortunately-named lady love, Fanny Brawne, would be right up my alley. And it might have been, too, except for the fact that the film is so dreadfully, unrelentingly, excruciatingly SLOOOOWWWW. It takes and absolute age for every scene to play out, and the characters are forever pausing to recite examples of Keats' poems -- long, drawn-out, unabridged versions of his poems.

The story concerns the meeting and short courtship of the two lovers. Fanny's mother rented half a house that was also being occupied by Keats and his friend and fellow poet, Mr. Brown. The two poets seem to spend most of their time shut up in the library, waiting for inspiration to strike. Fanny, on the other hand, is given to outrageous fashions that she creates herself for her frequent visits to dances. How the two of them fell in love is still something of a mystery. At any rate, before long they are casting simpering glances at each other, much to the disgust of Mr. Brown.

We are told frequently how Keats has no money, and his published collections of poems are tepidly received by the critical and reading public. There is one slight mention of his ability to slave away at medicine if he chooses, but apparently he'd rather sit around and wait to be inspired. Due to his lack of funds, he's constantly at the mercy of admiring friends, who arrange stays for him at various locations. These separations, generally not long lasting, always throw Fanny into fits of hysteria and tears, although she's apparently contented enough to exchange letters with Keats during his absences.

Keats loses a brother to consumption, but he doesn't himself appear to be ill until he rides back to Hampstead from London on the outside of a coach during a rainstorm in the middle of winter. He was nothing if not practical, that Keats fellow! After that, he begins coughing blood, and, well, it's pretty much downhill from there. His friends convince him to accept a trip to Rome to avoid a damp English winter which would surely finish him off. Fanny, as usual, has hysterics, but Keats somewhat pacifies her with an apparent engagement.

Off he goes, and there are a few letters, but they eventually get word that Keats has died. Fanny once again has a breakdown (with good reason, this time) and starts wearing black. When the film ends, we're informed that she spent a lot of time wandering through Hampstead Heath for the rest of her life. Not a word was mentioned about her subsequent marriage and the birth of her three children. Guess it would have ruined the whole "pining away for love" aspect of the story.

The biggest mystery of all is what attracted these two to each other. Keats came off as impractical, wishy-washy and generally helpless. Fanny loved dancing and parties, so why she wanted to hang around with that sour-sack is a mystery. If Keats had lived, I doubt their union would have been happy, although they did appear quite devoted at the time.

Still, since their story was somewhat abbreviated, I guess the filmmakers had to drag it out as long as possible. In that, they succeeded handsomely.

Final Verdict for Bright Star: Two Gherkins, for some lovely scenery, but not much of a story

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