There’s something beautiful and validating about seeing a poet depicted in
film — because, let’s be honest, the poet is the most enchanting of characters (if we do say so ourselves).
I was watching Stealing Beauty a few weeks ago while on vacation. The balcony door was open, the ocean was rolling in the distance, and we cuddled up under blankets watching Bernardo Bertolucci’s film about poetry, love, and youth.
Here are a few beautiful films about poetry and poets. There are many out there, but these are just a primer.
This incredibly beautiful film tells of the love story between Romantic poet John Keats and his love (and muse), Fanny Brawne. It also depicts the illness and death of Keats, whose poetry has left an indelible mark on the hearts of poets and poetry lovers, then and today. Warning: Bring tissues; you will need them.
Dead Poet’s Society
The canonical poet’s film, Dead Poet’s Society stars Robin Williams, who is an Engish teacher that uses not-so-traditional methods of teaching poetry at a boys’ school.
Facing judgment and hostility from the rest of the academic community, the underlying message is not only of love for poetry but for individuality, bravery, resistance and the concept of carpe diem (to seize the day).
When Lucy Harmon (played by Liv Tyler) visits a rural Tuscan village where her mother, a poet, once lived, she discovers love, desire — and a wild family secret.
Drenched in beautiful cinematography (the Italian light and set!), with scenes where poetry literally pops up on screen, you’ll fall in love with this 90s gem. It’s a Bernardo Bertolucci (The Dreamers) masterpiece.
In this part-fact, part-fantasy film, the story of communist poet Pablo Neruda (played by Luis Gnecco) is played out. When the Chilean government, a dictatorship, hunts Neruda down, he goes into hiding.
Artists and writers the world over learn of the story, demanding Neruda’s freedom. The poet meets this crisis with an eye on opportunity, personal growth, and resistance. And he rather enjoys the chase, too. Intersecting poetry and politics, this is a must-see for everyone living in today’s world.
This film may appeal to general fans to poetry, although many Sylvia Plath fans and critics took issue with its lack of gravity. Still, it provides a glimpse into the life of one of the most influential modern poets, as well as a look at her relationship with poet Ted Hughes. The movie does end with her heartbreaking death (not a spoiler; this is widely known), so be prepared for that.
In this 1993 classic, Janet Jackson plays a hairdresser who writes poetry as a way to move through the grief of losing her boyfriend, who was murdered in a shooting.
The film explores her use of poetry, and also a possible new love — played by Tupac Shakur. The cool thing? The poems are written by Maya Angelou, who plays a role in the film.
Romeo and Juliet
Although this film isn’t about a poet, per se, Shakespeare’s plays use poetic forms, like sonnets, iambic pentameter and blank verse. Not to mention, O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?, is one of the most well-known (and oft-recited) pieces of poetry ever written.
This post-mdoern Baz Luhrmann film is widely thought of as a masterpiece, and it deserves the praise. Its set design, juxtaposed imagery, and baroque displays of aesthetic beauty is a poem unto itself.