“I believe him to be the purest lyrical poet in the English-speaking world.”
With those words, the trailer to the new Dylan Thomas biopic, Set Fire to the Stars, starts and the legend of the Welsh poet in New York can begin.
The film tells the story of the relationship between John M. Brinnin, a Canadian-born American poet and critic played by Elijah Wood, and the legendary Dylan Thomas (Celyn Jones) during the latter’s first trip to the United States in 1950. In agreeing to prepare Thomas for his American debut and also being tasked with keeping his large personality under control, Brinnin finds his world is forever changed through the time spent with his hero.
What struck me most about this trailer – what I imagine would strike everyone the most – was the black and white stylistic choice, which is always a brave decision in modern film, but one that I think can work really well in the adaptation of a true story from 1950s New York. It establishes the tone, the history, even the classicism of the story that’s about to unfold, and the more times I watch it the more I’m finding myself entranced by it. From the opening words, the little nuggets of wisdom throughout, and the closing remarks, this film looks set to be visually stunning and infinitely lyrical.
For us Welsh folk, 2014 marks the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth, and this film is simply more remembrance in a year-long celebration of the poet, his life and his works. It generated some early buzz following its time at the Edinburgh Film Festival and positive reviews have been coming in thick and fast ever since. Set Fire to the Stars may have a very My Week With Marilyn feel to it – in the sense that through the meeting of a cultural icon, lives are touched and shaped forever – but I genuinely feel like this film has the potential to be something special.
The trailer tells us that life is about feeling something, that there’s no secret to it, and if you want to feel something incredible, I’d definitely recommend buying a ticket to see Set Fire to the Stars when it’s released on 7th November.