The life, lyrics, and love of John Keats on the big screen

Keats19Literary geeks, rejoice! They’ve made a film about John Keats.

I’m a Romantic poetry fangirl, I totally admit it. As a young English geek (and later, English major geek) I came across the Romantics in high school, and up until that point I had never read anything so profound. The language was so beautiful, the subjects both provocative and sublime; as a fledgling writer the impact was considerable.

Of all the Romantics–most English books cite the Big Six (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats)–Keats always held the most fascination for me. I mean, before pining, pale, sentimental vampires were all the rage, he had the whole aesthetic down. Without the whole being the vampire part, of course. Keats, as his contemporaries, was fascinated with the Gothic, too, and frequently wrote poems with macabre and dark sentimentality. And snake women, of course (see: “Lamia“.)

Keats is best known for his odes including “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to a Nightingale“, and “Ode to Psyche.” Unfortunately he died at the age of 26 of tuberculosis, inspiring romance writers for generations to wax poetic on the subject. But before he died, he also had an intense love affair with a woman name Fanny Brawne. Their passionate relationship was only made public in the late 19th century with the publication of their letters. The interchange scandalized Victorian society, but only served increased the writer’s popularity.

Now,  Jane Campion has brought Keats and Fanny’s story to the big screen with “Bright Star“; Campion both wrote and directed the film. While a great deal of the movie concentrates on the love story, according to the New York Times review, Campion lingers long on the language and setting of the story as well. This bit in the review got me very excited:

And while no film can hope to take you inside the process by which these poems were made, Ms. Campion allows you to hear them spoken aloud as if for the first time. You will want to stay until the very last bit of the end credits, not necessarily to read the name of each gaffer and grip, but rather to savor every syllable of Mr. Whishaw’s recitation of “Ode to a Nightingale.”

According to the review, there is also a “sequence in which, fully clothed, the couple trades stanzas of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” in a half-darkened bedroom must surely count as one of the hottest sex scenes in recent cinema.”

Geeks, it seems, have been sexy for a long, long while.

The film opens in limited locations on the 18th of September.