06/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

CANNES: Jane Campion's "Bright Star" Premiere With Star-Studded Red Carpet (PHOTOS)

(AP Article, Huffington Post slideshow)

CANNES, France - Jane Campion figured the best way to get modern audiences to love John Keats was to present the great English poet from the perspective of the woman he adored.

Campion, the only woman to win the top prize in the 62-year history of the Cannes Film Festival, returned to the world's premier cinema fest with "Bright Star," spinning the brief but passionate romance between Keats and the love of his short life, girl-next-door Fanny Brawne.

The film -- one of 20 competing for the festival's Palme d'Or, the award Campion previously won for 1993's "The Piano" -- is told entirely from the viewpoint of Fanny (Abbie Cornish), a spirited neighbor who rises from coquette to soul mate in the eyes of Keats (Ben Whishaw).

"I fell in love with Fanny as much as I did with Keats, and I think telling the story through Fanny's eyes was such a brilliant way for me to meet Keats," Campion said Friday before the film's Cannes premiere. "Because we know Fanny fell in love with him, and that way, we could fall in love with Keats with her."


Cannes Bright Star

"Bright Star" follows their relationship from 1818 through Keats' death from tuberculosis at age 25 in 1821. Unsuccessful as a writer while he was alive, Keats was too poor to formally court Fanny, but they became unofficially engaged as his health failed.

After his death, Keats rose to prominence as one of the greatest English poets, his works including "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and "Ode to a Nightingale."

The film intertwines the lovers' respective creative outlets, poetry and sewing. Fanny designed and stitched her own clothes, and "Bright Star" depicts her sewing as painstakingly as it does Keats' passion to write.

"There was something very focused, dedicated, concentrated about her doing that," Cornish said. "She loves making clothes, and I think Keats, too, when he goes into the world of poetry, it's a place where he is essentially on his own but in a whole world of imagination."

While Keats' name is still familiar, his verse had fallen out of favor among modern readers, including Whishaw.

"I didn't really know him very much at all," Whishaw said. "I had sort of a prejudice about the romantic poets, generally. I didn't think that they'd be my cup of tea. I thought I liked modern stuff that was sort of short, and short lines, and blunt, and different. But I've grown to love the kind of luxury of his writing and the sensuality of it.

"He became kind of irresistible, really, and inspirational."

Campion, 55, set out to introduce audiences to the little-known love affair between Keats and Fanny. She also hopes "Bright Star" might revive modern viewers' passion for poetry.

"We would love to think that we could help in some way bring people back to poetry, because it's such a beautiful way to plant a garden in your own soul and mind," Campion said.