A new trailer for Jane Campion’s Bright Star has hit the web. Due for release in the UK on 6th November, the film looks to be a refashioned view of period romance and meticulous showcase for early 19th century dress.
Bright star is based on the last three years in the life of poet John Keats (Ben Whislaw), specifically his secret love affair with muse Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Keats was only twenty-five when he died so this isn’t an upbeat tale by any stretch. Though director/screenwriter Jane Campion’s most celebrated picture The Piano (1993) was an emotional gut-wrencher too, and all the more perfect because of it.
Due in no small part to The Piano, Campion is posited as a feminist filmmaker; although she apparently eschews this term herself, perhaps because the word has become bastardised in recent years into something of a misnomer. She instead seeks to produce stories through the female gaze rather than politicise them. Evidently Bright Star is another fine example of this approach; a period romance that refuses to drown in wishy-washy, supposedly feminine sentiment.
From this trailer we can see that 19th century era costumes by Janet Patterson are vividly and accurately realised. This is a time when female dress varied not just by season and time of day, but also activity.
Fashions came dictated as ‘walking’ (bonnet, fur muff) or ‘concert’ (scoop neck dress, folding fan) and were strictly adhered to. Such restrictions formed the bedrock of stuffy Georgian values; of course they were stifling, that was the intention.
Perhaps this is why period romances are so popular today in our liberated western civilisation so free from moral statute. We revel in the agony of wanting something – a situation we are just not used to – then the absolute, almost unfathomable ecstasy in getting it.
Already on limited release in the U.S. and a secure hit at Cannes, Bright Star should delight UK audiences looking for a punchier take on this well-worn cinematic genre; a tragic love story that refuses to follow the formula.
© 2009 – 2012, Christopher Laverty.