Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

Bright Star: a visual masterpiece that captures eternal love and fleeting life

Named after one of his well-known poems, the film “Bright Star” is based on the true story of John Keats, an English poet in the Romantic movement, as seen through the eyes of his love, Miss Fanny Brawne.

The story follows Fanny through the relationship she had with Keats, beginning with their first meeting in London in 1818. Fanny is a young fashionista who meets Keats at the home of a family friend. Although focused on her sewing and an eager participant at local dances, Fanny finds herself drawn to the quiet Keats.

Keats and Fanny engage in a relationship deemed both scandalous and forbidden, due to the difference in class between the two. As Fanny’s mother says, “Mr. Keats knows he cannot like you; he has no living and no income.”

The film is essentially a romantic drama, as expected when depicting the life of a famous romantic poet. While the story is neither original (lovers separated by class), nor particularly exciting (all Keats does is recite his poems), the movie is a charming film with a tragic end.

What the story lacks in originality, but the stunning portrayals by the actors and the excellent visual composition of the piece surely make up for it.

Abbie Cornish (Fanny Brawne) and Ben Whishaw (John Keats) capture the essence of the two lovers. There is little dialogue in the film apart from Keats’ verses woven indistinguishably into the story. Instead, Cornish, through her youthful exuberance, and Whishaw, with his thoughtful contemplation, rely on the power of nonverbal communication. The emotions that the actors emit are so believable that one can literally feel the heartbreak of Fanny and the dooming mortality of Keats.

Cornish explores the idea of Fanny as an artist in her own right. While Keats expresses himself with his quill, Fanny uses her needle to produce marvelous dresses that speak of her feelings. Her ever-changing wardrobe, consisting of frills, buttons and vibrant reds, describes Fanny in a way that is never expressed through dialogue. The transition to a more subdued palate and a reduction in accessories emphasizes the evolution of her character as she falls in love with Keats.

Meanwhile, Whishaw is given the daunting task of portraying John Keats, one of the best English writers ever known. Keats is a tragic character, who, after facing the death of his mother and brother from tuberculosis, is an unsuccessful, penniless poet who is facing difficulty selling his books. Thus, when he discovers the enchanting Fanny Brawne, he has nothing but his beautiful words to woo her with. Whishaw, a thin slip of a man, delivers his words with an endearing beauty that makes them seem perfectly suited to that situation.

Casting Director Nina Gold, whose previous work includes the HBO series “Rome” as well as “The Illusionist,” once again worked her magic when selecting the cast for “Bright Star.” In addition to Cornish and Whishaw, Paul Schneider, from “Parks and Recreation” and “Lars and the Real Girl,” and young Thomas Sangster, of “Nanny McPhee” and “Phineas and Ferb,” round out the cast in admirable dramatic roles. Each actor carries the look of the time period well, lending a realistic feel to the film as a whole.

The visual imagery within the film can only be described as a work of incomparable magnificence. Director Jane Campion, who also directed “The Piano,” instead of emphasizing the works Keats composed himself, chose to use the visual elements from the film as the main way of depicting beauty. The composition within the frame is carefully arranged in order to create a powerful pull that drags the eye over the entirety of the screen. Campion plays with the relationship between color and emotions, as Fanny’s outfits often reflect her current feelings; the vibrant foliage in the outdoor scenes mimic the color palate of the character’s costumes.

Campion frequently features the characters interacting with nature, specifically trees. This repetition serves to indicate the seasonal setting of the film, as well as hint at the emotional elements within the scene. During particular scenes where Keats and Fanny are at odds, the trees appear barren and even fallen – a physical manifestation of the emotional disturbance within. Conversely, when the two share a private meeting in the woods, the blooming trees envelope them in a fantastic embrace. The eternal presence of trees dwarfs the fleeting lives of the humans, and their emotions, below.

“Bright Star” is a visually masterful film with a pleasant, if tragic, storyline that, without sounding too presumptuous, is deserving of more than a few awards. Its honest portrayal of life in the 1800s and lack of typical Hollywood features (the lovers never engage in anything more than a kiss beneath the trees) carry a realistic quality that makes it memorable. “Bright Star” is well worth the price of admission to see the work of Keats come to life in this romantic drama.

Nora Drapalski can be reached at ndrapals@student.umass.edu.

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