Jane Campion and John Keats align stars. By JACOB POWELL.

I’VE NEVER been a big Jane Campion fan but there is a lot to like about her latest labour of love. Beautiful in many senses of the word, Bright Star plays like a poem by the film’s protagonist, English romantic poet John Keats. Although a relatively conventional film (as festival fare goes), its narrative structure is separated into couplets and stanzas with plenty of breathing space between providing a unique rhythm to the work that takes a bit of finding, but is ultimately a satisfying experience. Granted it helps if you have a bent for period films and romance in the broader sense!

Bright Star concerns the relationship – from genesis to conclusion – between Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Miss Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), and the part his poetry played in their relationship as well as how that relationship affected his writing. One could argue that the central character in this film is Fanny – the film begins and ends with her, but I would say that the central character is actually the poetry itself which not only informs the narrative but is heard, and perhaps more importantly, is seen throughout the film. Campion directly implies this when Keats comments to Fanny in a poetry lesson that poetry, like diving into a lake, is not meant to be rationalised and explained but rather experienced. For him poetic imagery is meant to be immersive and, if it is good poetry, should produce a strong emotive response; so too does Campion’s film seek to be experienced/read in this way. Forget that the responses of the central characters seem out of proportion to the events – several times I couldn’t help thinking ‘how could people like this live in the world!?’ – as with Keats’ poems they express pure emotional responses to the romantic ups and downs they face, and in this light the film rings true even if our actions wouldn’t necessarily correspond to theirs.

Masterfully shot, Campion and lenser Greig Fraser capture great detail right from the opening montage close-ups of Fanny engaged in some stitching. Rough textured thread performing a graceful dance is cinematic magic. Despite the film’s aesthetic strength, the editing choices in Bright Star do, at times, feel a little indulgent; as if some shots are kept in purely because they do look so good, but end up breaking the film’s rhythm when a simple transition or tracking shot might have been more appropriate for the scene. Taken as a whole though, I came away from this film feeling as if I had witnessed something of real beauty.