Saturday, April 9, 2011
Version 1,439 of JANE EYRE
Apparently, Richmond is NOT a hub of cultural importance because we JUST got a theater that would play the new version of Jane Eyre, a full month after the official release date. This? This is the lame. Going to this movie was supposed to be my final outing as a non-mother before my kids were born. Instead it turned into my first outing after the birth of my kids. I guess that'll do, pig. That'll do.
This version may not technically be the 1,439th but it certainly feels like it. It's a safe movie to make, I think. A well known and well loved plot, lots of old English houses available for the set, dresses borrowed from other Victorian novel adaptations. It's almost formulaic: Jane in the red room, Jane at Lowood, Jane scaring Rochester's horse, flirty flirt flirting, ruined wedding, and then reader, she married him.
This is not that. This version starts with Jane stumbling half dead up to the home of St. John Rivers and his sisters- a portion of the book many movie versions leave out. The rest of the story is told in flashbacks. It is also a much more atmospheric Jane Eyre than any version before it. There are a lot of sweeping landscape shots of dreary moors. Scenes shot in the homes are all candle-lit, leaving every exchange slightly creepy and gloomy. No one really smiles, or ever laughs. Everything feels very isolated. In this, I think it's a more realistic version of what life was like in Northern England at that time. I also think it's closer to the feeling Bronte was going for than any other version of the movie.
The casting was stellar. Jane is composed but fiery, as opposed to the largely timid versions of the character in other adaptations. Rochester is a total ass, but you love him for his realizations of what an ass he is. He smolders- not in a Very Sexy Male Victorian Lead sort of way, but in a Guy With Very Big Secret That Sucks But Hey, He's Probably Not So Bad sort of way. However, I never really got the chemistry between Jane and Rochester. For one thing, their age difference is way obvious and a little weird. For another, this movie leaves out whole swaths of important material- and that brings me to my BIG ISSUE with it.
Nothing is ever really explained. Important back story and events in the book are alluded to, but never drawn out. Rochester brings Blanche to Thornfield to make Jane jealous- but that's never really explained. She's just sort of there. The wife in the attic is sort of an afterthought. Jane and Rochester's relationship never goes through evolution- they have two conversations and then it's sort of assumed that they're TRULY MADLY DEEPLY and whatnot. The movie focuses (and succeeds) at creating this perfect gothic atmosphere, but at the expense of fleshing out the plot. If this were a five hour miniseries, it would be perfection.
Final verdict? Definitely worth seeing, but only if you've read the book. Otherwise you'll be hella confused.
P.S. One more positive thing is that the movie avoids the over-emoting so common in modern remakes of classics (I'm thinking of all the emoting and walking about in underwear in the Keira version of P&P as my most irritating example).