Week 5 Holidays
What did I do?
Watched Bright Star (2012) by Jane Campion
Bright Star, Directed by Jane Campion is a film which tells of the last few years of the life of Romantic poet John Keats. More specifically, the film focuses on his relationship with seamstress Fanny Brawne and his struggles as a poet. ‘Bright Star’ was the poem that Keats wrote in 1819 addressed to Fanny Brawne.
While watching the film I found several repeated symbolic motifs – thread/sewing, butterflies and the winter tree. The opening credits features a close up of Fanny Brawn sewing – she sews as both as a career and to provide her own and, by the look of the matching fabric that her sister wears, her family’s clothing. She is creating a seam with careful and precise stitches to join two pieces of fabric together. When John Keats has left for the Summer, Fanny exclaims that she has “no care for stitches”, revealing her despair at being without him. And on the eve of Keats leaving for Rome – he was too ill to stay in England during the cold of Winter – he tells her that she has to “cut the thread” as he solemnly believes that he will not return or see her again and does not want to leave her in desperate hope. We do not see Fanny sewing after Keats’ death, as their lives have already been permanently interwoven, the thread has been tormentingly cut and there is nothing more that can be done to their seams. The butterflies that are mentioned in their letters are often seen in the field of flowers near their home as well as in her room when she starts her own butterfly farm. Her mother was as appalled at the amount of insects that her daughter kept, just as she was at first disapproving of Fanny’s relationship with John Keats. When Fanny is convinced that John is avoiding her by the end of that Summer, she is pictured bleeding surrounded by a room full of dead butterflies.
The winter tree, another motif, is first seen when Franny presents a pillow slip to John Keats after the death of his youngest brother Tom who died of tuberculosis. The pillow slip is made of a lustrous fabric and is embroidered with the motif of a tree, bare of leaves and layered with snow. Keats tells her that it is what he will rest his brother’s head on for the last time. The tree later appears after Keats first appears ill, in the cold of winter. As Fanny is outside with her two siblings they stand under the snowy tree and she looks into the house at a sickly Keats. The film ends with Fanny Brawne walking in a trance amongst a forest of dead snowy trees the morning after hearing of Keats’ death.
Finished reading Frankenstein
After reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein I was left still wondering at two things: How did the monster become so intelligent and sophisticated from simply watching an outcasted family? and How did Frankenstein create life? There are no clues as to how Frankenstein stumbled upon this marvellous discovery of life. I am assuming that is because M.Shelley did not have the scientific knowledge to imagine a legitimate sounding method (such as you would see in modern science fiction, when information is so easily obtainable) OR it is because she wanted it to be purposefully mysterious and ominous, as it is Gothic in genre. Rather than have critics debate over the causes of the monster’s life, she likely wanted people to contemplate the repercussions of such a creation in reflection of the advancements in science at the time. Repercussions such as having a responsibility for the mess that you create when you meddle with the natural order of the world, a responsibility which Frankenstein neglected in fear.
As to the intelligence of the monster, I have almost nothing to say; I cannot figure it out. I do not understand how it learnt so quickly to be so sophisticated. It may be explained by the monster having been given the physical brains of an adult, already fully developed, when Frankenstein created him but the monster’s explanation of the way that he learnt man’s customs reveals that this did not contribute to the gentlemanly air with which he presented himself to Frankenstein.