Campion brings Keats love story to Cannes

Fri May 15, 2009 12:34pm EDT
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By James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Jane Campion's latest film, on show at Cannes, portrays the passionate affair between the Romantic poet John Keats and his teenaged love Fanny Brawne but is not a biopic, the New Zealand-born director said.

"Bright Star" brings Campion, 55, back to the film festival where she made her name in 1993 with "The Piano," another 19th century romance that won her both the Palme d'Or award for best film and an Oscar in the same year.

Saying she felt "very excited and fearful" at returning to Cannes, where she is still the only woman ever to have won the main competition prize, Campion said she had striven to avoid the cliches that can rob many period films of life.

The film includes the lush and colorful imagery that marked Campion's earlier films and natural performances from the cast including the two leads, Australian actor Abbie Cornish as Fanny and Britain's Ben Whishaw as Keats.

"What was important was to tell a very intimate story and to make nothing of the fact that it was a period film," she told a press conference after the film's warmly received first screening Friday.

"This is not a biopic. It's a story inspired by their story told from Fanny's point of view. It's a love story."

Keats was struggling to establish himself as a poet when he met Fanny Brawne in 1818. The acquaintance deepened when he moved next door to her family in the London village of Hampstead the following year and the pair fell passionately in love.

In the few years they spent before his death at the age of 25, Keats wrote some of his greatest poetry including "Ode to a Grecian Urn" and "Ode to a Nightingale" as well as love letters that Campion drew on heavily for the film.   Continued...

<p>Director Jane Campion (L) poses with cast members Abbie Cornish (C) and Ben Wishaw during a photocall for the film "Bright Star" at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival May 15, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>