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The Last Journey of John Keats

Distributed by Films for the Humanities and Sciences, Box 2053, Princeton, NJ 08543-2053; 800-257-5126
Produced by Films for the Humanities and Sciences
Director n/a
VHS, color, 50 min.
High School - Adult

Reviewed by Gerald Notaro, University Librarian, Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg


Even hard core admirers of John Keats' work, this reviewer counted among them, may find The Last Journey of John Keats to be not much more than a video talking book. The documentary tries to recreate his final sea voyage to Italy taken in hopes of easing the pain of his advancing tuberculoses. Keats biographer, Andrew Motion, sets sail 175 years later in a boat as similar as possible to the one Keats sailed on, in order to see, hear, and feel what Keats may have felt. Along the way, breathless, dramatic readings of his poems and letters artificially place them on a pedestal. Hearing his verses recited in hushed tones among images of rolling waves and an azure sky, one expects Jonathan Livingston Seagull to come swooping into the frame. We learn from conversations with critics and other poets that his work is being seen in a new political light, especially in terms of his working class, Cockney background. Esoteric can only describe the "poets' picnic" where Keatsian imagery is discussed. The Last Journey of John Keats' ultimate goal should be to bring the viewer closer to the works of John Keats. In this case, the printed words fare better. Recommended only for academic collections.