So, last Saturday evening the BBC did us an enormous favour and showed Jane Campion’s film, Bright Star which is about John Keats and Fanny Braune’s rather doomed love affair. I loved the film because of its gorgeous costumes, the way the costumes were part of the story, and the way sewing and fabric was part of the storytelling device. Fanny is shown as being obessed with clothes and fashion and has gorgeous things to wear throughout:
And she spends hours stitching and embroidering (and wearing very becoming bonnets). When Keats dies her clothes become sombre and dark, echoing her mood, and she makes a gift of an embroidered pillow for his brother’s coffin when he dies early on in the film. The use of fabric almost like a character in the film reminded me of classics like Hero and In the Mood for Love, where the clothes tell us about the emotional states of the characters.
I thought the film showed how important stitching was and still is to some of us as a consolation, but also as a way of giving meaning to our lives and helping us to form and maintain our identities. Fanny exists through cloth to some extent in this film. I read a brief extract from an interview with the director in Selvedge, definitely the best textile magazine/journal in the UK, in which she said that she was commenting on how undervalued women’s work is. Hours and hours go into it and it is completely overlooked and trivialised. Which is a bleak thought. The film is a delight for the eyes, though:
I would have liked a bit more of the poetry, because I encountered Keats at a dangerously impressionable young age and never really got over it, but if you like stitching it would be worth seeking this out for a special treat.