Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jane Eyre: Latest Remake?

I will admit, the first time I read Jane Eyre I didn't care for it much. This was back when every story had to have a perfectly tidy happy ending and the starring characters had to be beautiful and completely lovable. I had a hard time making Jane plain and prim in my imagination, and the mysterious Mr. Rochester couldn't be anything but dark and smoldering. After all, I read books and watch movies to be transported to a place where everyone is gorgeous and everything turns out wonderfully in the end. (This may have something to do with the reason I used to avoid the last scene in Gone With The Wind, or go back and watch the first scene again before I turn it off!) 
I now appreciate more complex story lines with at least bittersweet endings, and I love a good tragedy or backwards love story (think The Painted Veil, movie version) I still have a lot to learn about recognizing thematic elements in literature, their value and implications. I simply want a good story, although I'm able to appreciate subtle themes after a few repeats.
Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex. (Chapter XII)
I'll be honest, when reading a novel I'll skim over paragraphs like that if at all possible. I just want to know what happens in the end. I always wikipedia a book or movie before I begin because I don't enjoy it if I spend the whole time wondering what will happen. Suspense is just not my thing.
I'm a little reluctant to admit this, because it makes me feel like I'm not appreciating all this story has to offer. But it keeps me reading it over and over, because every time I pick up something new, putting the plot or characters in a whole new light. Maybe this is why I can listen to a reading of Pride & Prejudice all day at work and then watch one of the movie adaptations in the evening! For a cast of characters to be practically rewritten with each reading based on new comprehension of subtle details woven throughout, well... No wonder it's so well-loved. 

Anyway, back to the movie. A new version of Jane Eyre came out a few months ago, and I watched it last night as I sewed. The above still is an excellent representation of what a good amount of the movie consists. There's a whole lot of wandering about, peeking around corners, and gazing at the countryside. Not nearly enough character development, in my opinion. I enjoyed the shifting timeline, how the movie begins in the middle, reviews the beginning, returns to the middle, and then plays out to the end. I imagine it would be confusing for someone unfamiliar with the plot, but I was more unhappy with the lack of dialog. Why did Jane fall in love with Mr. Rochester? Why did she suffer through his sarcastic baiting and mood swings long enough to return the feeling? Who felt it first? Did he know she felt the same? 
The viewer will never know, because every scene with a hint of romance seems to be an unsettling one-sided conversation of  harassment. He may be the first and only person to recognize and acknowledge her "feminist" opinions, but without the explanation of passionate emotions from the book, that's hardly enough to elicit a steamy affair. Jane appears to just put up with Mr. Rochester's foul temper until she can escape the room, her face expressionless in all but a few scenes. I understand that this is accurate to the character, but without her narrative there's no hint to how she really feels.

On the positive side, I thought the casting was perfect. Jane wasn't too pretty, and Mr. Rochester wasn't too handsome. The scenery, music, and costumes were fantastic! I also loved the build-up of the mysterious incidents of Thornfield Hall. I know what's behind them perfectly well, but the eerie suspense still got my heart beating faster. And the little girl who played Adele, oh so darling!

Here's my favorite clip, this is after Jane rescues Mr. Rochester from the fire in his room:

I'm going to watch it again on my lunch break. I'd love to know what you thought of the movie!

1 comment:

janet said...

Hey Melissa,

I am such a sucker for all these BBC style movies based on the classics. I must Netflix this one.

My ultimate favorite is Pride & Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle......the BEST!!!!!!!

Not to be confused with the Kiera Knightly version....that Mr. Darcy was way too short.

Have a great weekend!

big hello to the little cutie pie!

janet xox