Kurt here from Your Movie Buddy, ready to spread a little love on Valentine's Day.
The dreamy feeling one gets while watching Jane Campion's Bright Star is encapsulated in two successive images in the film, both of which are included at the end of this post. But WAIT!! Don't scroll down yet!! There's still plenty to say about this gorgeous telling of the romance between poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and poet's muse Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). It's by far 2009's finest love story and by leaps its most beautiful movie.
I haven't exactly chosen a Valentine's Day love scene – as per Nathaniel's instructions to his contributors – though I could've easily devoted a few hundred words to the tender, sexless sex scene that caps the lovers' fleeting fling (just as I could have devoted a few thousand to the absurdity of Cornish's near-universal snubbing in the '09 awards race). What I picked is the exquisite sequence that shows the spark of the pair's courtship.
It begins with a frozen-in-time tableau that, among other things, brings to life Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte.
It's the morning after a ballroom event, where Fanny first introduced Keats to the extents of both her fashion sense and her pseudo-feminist pluck. Fanny's young sister, Toots (Edie Martin), wants to play on the swing, which is just as well, since Fanny and Keats have plans of their own. They stroll along a planked path that bisects an ocean of reeds, and Campion all but lets you feel the plants brush across your cheek. Each lover catches the other catching a glimpse in that playful way that anyone who's ever been crush-struck can recognize.
They set down on a grassy patch in the woods, where Keats tells Fanny of a dream he had the night before in which his lips were attached to those of a beautiful figure. “Were they my lips?” Fanny asks with characteristic forwardness. And with that, we ease into the couple's first kiss, which Campion deftly delays for maximum effect.
Of course, what Campion does throughout Bright Star is create her own kind of poetry. She renders a timeless romance with lyrical beauty, not to mention visually translate the oft-unfilmable writer's process with remarkable, graceful success. Her movie is across-the-board romantic, giving a great deal of weight to an under-documented love story, using the classically sexy device of love letters as vessels of longing and joy, and enveloping you in the uncluttered comfort of nature.
The first kiss is followed by three wondrous, indelible shots, in which Fanny and Keats share their newfound glee in love, then revel in it individuallly. Playful and unbroken, the first sees them freeze in place and play it cool (three times) as Toots glances back to catch them mid-smooch.
The second, set in Fanny's bedroom, and the third, atop a flowery tree, illustrate the very sensation this whole movie creates – that of a smooth breeze that bowls you over...
...and leaves you in bliss.
Let these stills settle in, then tell me: were you as taken with Bright Star as I was?