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The latest Jane Eyre

Dear friends and readers,

Do not miss the new Jane Eyre. Even if you've seen as many versions as I have (that's many, maybe all available on DVD -- see On Never Tiring of Jane Eyre).  And even if you've not seen that many -- Jane Eyre, 2011.  The director (Cary Fukunaga) knows how many times this film has been made.  And he manages surprises:  : it begins with Jane's flight from Rochester & works its way back there 3/4s of the way through.

Mia Wasikowsa as Jane fleeing Rochester: near opening of film

He really gets the violence of the book into the film.  He doesn't mince injustice and when a slap happens or beating you are allowed to feel at least the first blow.  After a while you begin to feel suspense and can be startled.  He relies to some extent on your having gone before: so he offers epitomizing scenes.  I wept at the last. It really was a minimal short version of all those long final poignant reunions -- complete with one version of the typical wry witticism of Jane.  It was not so much a scene as an allusion to a scene he would have done had he had the time. But what is offered is often done top-notch with total seriousness.

The biggest surprise was the build up of Rivers (Jamie Bell): the actor got second billing or third. 

Jamie Bell as Rivers part of the presiding spirit over the flashback mode in which the story is unravelled

Picture it: the film begins with Jane running away; after each flashback (some long, some short), we come back to Jane and Rivers. It's with Rivers and his sisters at dinner and during Rivers' proposal Jane utters her (not very) feminist talk.  The audience appeared usually not to have read the book. They responded to some of the lines as new (different ones were chosen than used to be -- this is like the recent Austen adaptations).  There were gasps as if someone was surprised at a literal turn of events. So this will be Jane Eyre for this generation (or 5 years).  I did think the audience was led to take the Bronte view of Rivers: wrong for Jane but religion as a topic was marginalized and instead we were in a three way triangle.

As in the Jane Eyre most recently (screenplay, Sandy Welch, director Susannah White, BBC mini-series, with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson) an attempt was made to make Bertha less a monster, but the language used was the condemning misogynistic type of the book.

The family group was emphasized in White's production

Flashbacks within flashbacks (but curious, no voice-over that I can remember); gothic archetypal scenes that top what you have usually seen.  Money spent.  Use of exciting zoom in and out shots, framings.  Shameless use of vatic language -- the actors had a problem here.

So we come to flaws:  There just isn't the time to build that central relationship of depth interaction between Rochester and Jane that is the core of the best movies found in the 1973 [written by Robin Chapter, with Michael Jayston, Sorah Cusack as Rochester and Jane); perhaps the best at this development is the long mini-series, the 1983 Jane Eyre (screenplay Alexander Baron, Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke as Rochester and Jane)

Timothy Dalton giving Zelah Clarke only minimal wages so that she will return to Thornfield after visiting Reed Hall

-- and somehow reached by Hinds and Morton in their brilliant acting of Jane and Rochester (1997, a movie intended for cinema, Robert Young directed) in their short film. 

Ciarhan Hinds confiding vulnerable feelings to Samantha Morton

But the male actor was up to it as William Hurt (1996, Zeffirelli directing, Charlotte Gainsbourg Jane) was not; Hurt was so embarrassed by the role he didn't know what to do ... )  It helped he is not famous (Michael Fassbender). I didn't know his name. He is not handsome. Ma Wasikowsa looked the role. I've seen her before but my 20ish year old daughter (she has read the book), Izzy assured me Wasikowsa is not well known, not "famous" as famous.

Fassbender in a typically withdrawn vehement moment
As in a couple of these commercial films Mrs Fairfax is made far more central, and given knowledge and made part of a penultimate scene she has not in the book?  I've wondered if this is sop to something conventional: a pro-family note. Judi Dench tried her best, but the role is thankless and seemed wasting time (and time was so precious) -- the director over built it because it was her I thought.

Judi Dench as Mrs Fairfax: she did look too old for the role, but did it well.

They omitted Miss Temple -- well she was there, but given no lines and hardly a presence. Now it is true that the probability is such a good woman who not be or stay like that at Lowood, but it is a loss. She too is often omitted in the film theatre commercial films.  (Telling I think -- Amanda Root was given the part in the Susannah White recent mini-series JE.)  Lowood was foreshortened too. There was Helen and she died but it took less than 5 minutes and the stress was the cruel humiliating punishment and Jane's being carried away: not the deaths from typhus.  They cut back on the Ingram (Imogen Poots -- this was a part BBC clique product): Izzy said to a modern woman or girl it is ugly that he teases Jane and it would make him look awful, that's why.  But I saw a cutting back on women full stop. The could not omit Mrs Reed and Sally Hawkins who is a marvelous actress was there as Mrs Reed. She is skinny enough to be heroines still and there she was the dragon lady.  She was not given enough screen time though. So my comment on the build up of Mrs Fairfax is it was a choice from priorities. Dench is a box-office star.

Basically, the feel is an elimination of women.  Rivers' Diana not there; his sisters ciphers -- even though the screenplay is by a woman: Moira Buffini.  It's not just a stripped down Jane; it's a hollowed out one for a triangle of Jane and Rochester, Jane and Rivers

Well, my daughter and I mean to go again if it comes to us in our area. So you see we liked it :) She did look mesmerized  A young graduate student friend in English and his (his) friends went -- were at the same showing!  I do not live in a small town (this was a DC theater, an art-y one). The theater was nearly full. Nearly all seats taken.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 22nd, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
I just found out last week that a new version of this movie had been made, and it made me so happy. "Jane Eyre" has been my favorite novel since I was old enough to read it, and it was the topic of many college papers. Your journal is a very exciting find and I intend to take some time later to go through some of the older entries.
Mar. 22nd, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you. You will find much on the Brontes, women writers (especially 18th and 19th century) and also Austen. E. M.
Mar. 22nd, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC)
Jane Eyre: why it's a perennial?
A propos of Jane Eyre, I just happened to begin a volume called _Fatal Attractions_, essays on contemporary literature and film edited by Lynne Pearce and Gina Wisker. The subtitle: "rescripting romance" tells its slant: they seek to see how depictions of romance have changed, whether they are used to expose the institutions which exploit the human impulse to assuage aloneness in a partner (and answer needs not met in a particular child- or adulthood) or questioned in themselves. A prime candidate are the rewrites of Jane Eyre: among those gone over by Patsy Stonement is A. S.Byatt's The Game and Drabble's Waterfall, both of which I've read and can confirm are rewrites of the Brontes (not just Jane Eyre though).

It's one of those essays so condensed and so determined to reach a more general readership and attitude that I'm not sure what I learned when I finishes: Stoneman's idea that what we are drawn to is an individual building her own life on her own terms won't quite do since there are other great books by women which do this.

The essay does set you wondering and the volume is worth while perusing.

Mar. 22nd, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Miss Temple
Ian M:

"Ellen - you must have gone to the same theater I went to, Such a nice review - I'm currently working on my own, but it probably won't be quite as detailed.

You note the disappearance of Miss Temple - out of the five versions I've seen, she only appears in the 1996 Zeffirelli film, played magnificently by Amanda Root fresh off Persuasion. As a side note, that means Persuasion and
Jane Eyre have yet another connection - Root in Zeffirelli's film, Ciaran Hinds and Rupert Penry-Jones in the Samantha Morton telefilm, and now Hawkins in the Fukunaga film.

But the reason I bring up Miss Temple's excision is that every single film also omits the reform of Lowood as a result of the typhus casualties. I think that has a muted but important
impact on the message of the story."

Mar. 23rd, 2011 12:23 am (UTC)
Another: Dalton/Clark one her favorite
From Mary S:

"I'm also happy to hear that you liked the new "Jane Eyre" film so much. I have all of the original version (as far as I know), and have always preferred the Timothy Dalton & Zelah Clarke one. It is really my favorite. I was curious as to how this new film would be presented, and whether it would be unrecognizable for those of us who are very familiar with the book and other films. I'm looking forward to seeing it, if and when it comes to a theater near me. Otherwise, I'll order it from Amazon later."

Edited at 2011-03-23 07:05 pm (UTC)
Mar. 24th, 2011 02:37 am (UTC)
Stylish, unusual
Dear Ellen,

Thanks for the review! I am hoping to see it as soon as it is showing in Pittsburgh. I thought the trailer looked amazingly stylish and hinted that aspects of the book that are often neglected would be included. I am very eager to see it!

Thanks for sharing!

-- Matthew Heilman
Mar. 26th, 2011 09:02 pm (UTC)
Neglected parts included
Dear Ellen,

Thanks for the review! I am hoping to see it as soon as it is showing in Pittsburgh. I thought the trailer looked amazingly stylish and hinted that aspects of the book that are often neglected would be included. I am very eager to see it!

Thanks for sharing!

-- Matthew Heilman
Mar. 26th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC)
Helpful blog
Thanks, Ellen. Your blog is really helpful and I will refer to it in future! Will also go see the new JE.

Prof. Celestine Woo
Vic Sanborn
Apr. 10th, 2011 04:11 pm (UTC)
Choppy Script
I loved the two main actors - Fassbender and Wasylowski - and the sets and costumes were divine. Dame Bench, while a fabulous actress, was miscast. There were aspects in this all too short adaptation that were good and very modern, and you pointed them out. But this film depends heavily on the viewer's familiarity with the story. St. John's relationship to Jane would be totally mystifying to someone who had not read the book; and because Jane's early life shown through flashbacks, I felt that the dreadful early years had a 3rd person, removed quality to them. The film's ending was so abrupt that the audience in our art house theatre sniggered in disbelief. My young companion felt that the story was rushed. Interestingly, those of us who had to wait to see this film and who read all the raving reviews felt let down. Had we seen this film earlier before all the hoopla, I wonder if we would have liked it more?

Apr. 10th, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
film depends on your having read the book

Good point. I went there with low expectations. I expected to be in a state of "ho hum;" the brevity of the film made it likely (I thought) it would be poor. Therefore when I saw so much to like, I was elated. I liked its modernity (the feel of violence for example, the insistence on the power relationships), the gothic picturesque and the cinematic techniques (flashback, in medias res) because I've been studying them. Maybe were I to see Hinds and Morton in a simiarly short "take" I would vouch fort the superiority of the earlier film. But I've not got the time just now.

I thought many in the audience had not seen the film -- the way they gasped or laughed. But others were like me, very familiar. It's hard to get back to not knowing the book at all but you are right there too: it's a good exercise to take someone who has not read a book and watch their reactions.

I think these film adaptations fine works of art, but like translation art, they do not stand alone and people making the films dislike admitting this as modern criteria for praise insists on originality and self-dependence.

Apr. 16th, 2011 03:06 am (UTC)
Daily Blague
RJ said it sent him back to the book:

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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