Bright Star

Bright Star Film by Jane Campion

In 2009 whilst working at Anthropologie’s HQ as the newly created role of head of Community and Content, I was lucky enough to work on a really special project/web site, The Anthropologist (now defunct).

The site was designed to be an exploration of story and creativity, changing it’s design and content every quarter. It launched featuring three artists in  three unique ways.

One of those artists was Jane Campion, who shared intimate details and photos on the makings of her latest film, Bright Star. 

When 23-year-old John Keats met 18-year-old Fanny Brawne in the autumn of 1818, a love affair began, and the 37 surviving love letters and notes Keats wrote to Fanny bear compelling witness to its tenderness, passion and intensity. It was the first love most of us dream of enjoying, but with an end so tragic that it proved hard for them to bear.

Eight years ago, I was drawn into Keats’s world by Andrew Motion’s biography. Soon I was reading back and forth between Keats’s letters and his poems. The letters were fresh, intimate and irreverent, as though he were present and speaking. The Keats spell went very deep for me. I finally wrote a screenplay of the love affair from Fanny’s point of view, entitled Bright Star.

Jane Campion’s forward in The Telegraph, 2009

Working with Jane Campion on this project was literally a dream come true. She’s one of my favourite storytellers and directors for so many reasons but three of them in particular are these: she believes in the smallest of details, creating austere beauty and making light a main character.

Our site highlighted the details; her notes for the actors, her notes to herself, the actual notes used in the film. It also shared the beauty of the film through still photography and Jane’s own behind-the-scenes polaroid on shots. Light as a main character? Well you’d have to watch the film for that.

The night of the launch part I spoke with her about these three things. She’s quiet and I think an introvert but she indulged me in talking about her process and what I really took away from it was how much she cared – in the story, in the work, in the people. She loved what she did and that quiet passion resonated. Creating isn’t always about competition or being the best, it’s telling a story in the best way you because you have to. And if you’re working with people, bringing out the best in them. I just love that.

When she started out, Campion considered herself primarily a writer. “I had these stories and there was no chance of getting anybody else to do them, so I had to become a director of my own work. I never thought I wanted to be a film director. I’m not actually ambitious per se in terms of a career; I’m just ambitious to achieve the stories and dramas that I’ve come up with.”

The Guardian

I re-watched the film the other day and I think it’s still one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen. There are so many hygge moments that if I could dive in a live in it, I totally would. It’s a slow, quiet film that requires you to be present when watching it, but it’s honest, captivating and heart breaking all at the same time.

I’ve pulled together some of my favourite images from the film and some of the screen captures that were shared on The Anthropologist almost 10 years ago. They center mainly around Fanny Brawne, from which the story of Keats is really told. To me, she’s a complex character I didn’t always like but I do admire a lot of the boldness and attitude she has.

Fanny, as played by the up-and-coming Australian actress Abbie Cornish, is a curious heroine. She’s not a quick-tongued wit, like Pride and Prejudice‘s Elizabeth Bennet. She’s grave-faced and a little stolid, skeptical of flights of fancy. Fanny is inordinately proud of her gifts as a seamstress, and she dresses herself in homemade finery that’s outrageously ornate for the simple village life she leads. (Meeting Keats at a party, she brags, “This is the first frock in all of Hampstead to have a triple-pleated mushroom collar.”) 

Slate, 2009
Bright Star Film by Jane Campion
Bright Star Film by Jane Campion
Bright Star Film by Jane Campion

Jane Campion’s Bright Star Notes

“What I love so much about this story is its purity and innocence,” Ms. Campion said. “It’s such a rare thing these days. Also the poetry, a lost art to which, hopefully, we’ve given a moment. It felt like it was about things I want to know about life. It’s not fashionable, but it seems to feed me in the way I want to be fed.” New York Times.

Jane Campion's Notes on Bright Star from The Anthropologist
Jane Campion's Notes on Bright Star from The Anthropologist

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