Keats’ Love Connection
Keats House in Hampstead, north London
It was here in this pretty white-washed villa known as Wentworth Place that John Keats penned Ode To A Nightingale. It was here, too, during that same period between 1818 and 1820 that Keats fell in love with Fanny Brawne, the girl next door. The house at the time consisted of two adjoining properties with a shared garden; the Brawnes living on one side and Keats on the other with his friend and fellow poet, Charles Armitage Brown.
This historic property, a museum today simply known as Keats House, anchors director Jane Campion’s newly released film “Bright Star,” the 19th-century love story that seduced audiences at Cannes and is opening this weekend across the country. While the actual home was thought too “fusty” by Campion for the film, it has been beautifully recreated at a property on the Hyde House estate near Luton for the telling of this tragic tale of the romance between Keats and his strong-willed neighbor, Fanny.
Campion, best known as the second woman in history to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director in 1993 for The Piano, recounts the story through the eyes of Fanny Brawne, the young woman who inspired Keats’ most passionate poetry before his death at the age of 25. Although the Romantic poets might inhabit an episode of Masterpiece Theatre, Campion was determined to steer clear of what she calls “a Beatrix Potter world, with cute costumes and hats.”
Together with gifted cinematographer Greig Fraser, Bright Star sets the mood “through silent visual imagery. His camera remains largely static; every shot is lit and framed with a care and precision that does justice to, and even correlates to Keats’s poetry.”
Some of these images – narrow, cramped doorways, a butterfly flapping its wings in a glass jar, a breeze blowing through a curtain to Fanny lying on her bed – create an overwhelming sense of emotion, as does the recitation of Keats’s imploring, yearning love letters to Fanny. A poetically sumptuousness tribute.