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"The breathtaking girl next door"

In 'Bright Star', a dramatization of the intense though unconsummated love affair between the young Romantic poet John Keats and his younger neighbor, Fanny Brawne, the filmmaker Jane Campion has performed her own feat of romantic imagination. The production is modest in physical scale, mostly reserved in tone and touchingly simple in design (apart from Fanny's dazzling wardrobe, which is justified by her gifts as a seamstress). Yet the effect is exhilarating, and deeply pleasurable. It's like the dive into a lake that Keats evokes to explain the experience of poetry. The point, he explains to Fanny, is not to get to the other side, but to luxuriate in the lake.

The most obvious source of pleasure is the film's heroine, about whom much has been written in the past two centuries, despite a scarcity of factual knowledge. What's never been in doubt is the depth of the poet's passion for Fanny; his love letters to her enjoy a special place in English literature. What we know about her, though, comes mainly from him, and it's more suggestive than definitive. His first impression, that of a stylish minx, gave way to adoration for a woman who, he said, could "concentrate my whole senses." Not a blank slate, then, but one with plenty of open spaces that Ms. Campion has filled in the course of a film that avoids any trace of musty reverence for a long-dead poet by concentrating our senses on the breathtaking girl next door. . .


Abbie Cornish plays Fanny Brawne, who can "upstage a bedroom full of butterfllies". Ben Whishaw, plays John Keats, "Awake for ever in a sweet unrest".



Swimming in the lake with Keats -

To Autumn
An Angel's Tear

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