Palimpsest  

Go Back   Palimpsest > Reviews > Film Reviews


Tags
jane eyre, mia wasikowska, michael fassbender, rochester

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 14th Jul 2012, 18:49   #1
Colyngbourne
Administrator
is beyond help
 
Colyngbourne's Avatar
 
Join Date: 30 Apr 2003
Location: England
Posts: 10,739
Default Jane Eyre (2011)

Whatever this was, it wasn’t Jane Eyre. I didn’t think I could dislike an adaptation more than the 2006 Ruth Wilson/Toby Stephens mini-series, but this shockingly muted and rushed film did its best disservice to the Bronte novel and the themes and characters therein.

I can confess to being more of a purist than I should be on Jane Eyre but the novel is so stuffed with emotion, with life experiences informing actions, infused with considerations of the place of women in society, what Christian living and forgiveness look like, what the relations of men and women should be, and virtually of these were absent from this film. Mia Wasikowska was so restrained in her approach to the role that there was little to see of the teasing, the growing infatuation, the repression of feeling, the intimacy of conversation, leading her to see right into Rochester’s spirit, and he into hers. Bronte’s Jane Eyre is small but witty and bossy as well as tentative and cautious, flirty and determined and engaged with life rather than sullen and flat as here.

The direction of the film steered away from any depth of understanding about Jane’s background by relegating the first quarter of the book (until she leaves Lowood School) to the opening ten minutes of the film. Jane’s terror in the Red Room, the drawn-out struggle at the grim but educative Lowood, alongside its two deeply Christian mentors, the consumptive pupil Helen Burns and gentle teacher Miss Temple, are reduced to two minutes of meaningless back-story or omitted altogether. Yet these pages and scenes are crucial to the formation of Jane’s character – who she is and what will hold her together when she is tempted into breaking all social convention.

More crucially atmosphere is lost at Thornfield with the omission of Jane being hustled away from locked upper rooms and the strange drunken sewing-woman Grace Poole, or the omission of much of the social manoeuvrings that Jane is witness to in the weekend party – no Rochester disguising himself as a fortune-telling gypsy – or the omission of the many conversations that Jane holds with Rochester that allows the other access to their heart and mind and soul. With the humorous teasing that comes in the fortune-telling scene or when Rochester teases Jane with the notion of being sent as governess to a new family in the backwoods of Ireland, we see more than the brooding brute of a man that this film gives us, however handsome some might regard Mr Fassbender. Her early life has formed Jane into a woman of argument and determination, which is what attracts Rochester who has been roaming the world in search of his soul-mate, and their deep conversations form the crucial essence of their courtship – something which the format of a two-hour film cannot hope to convey.

Little is made of how the first Mrs Rochester was wed to Rochester in a piece of trickery and when the viewer sees the “impediment” at last, she looks like a decently pretty woman who just needs a wash and brush up. Yes, she spits at Jane and scratches Rochester’s face but this is a woman meeting her replacement bride-to-be. Without seeing Bertha Mason as not just a mentally disturbed woman but someone who wishes evil and is more animal-like in her actions, we cannot but see Rochester as truly failing in his marriage vows and simply using Jane as a get-out for a mere inconvenience. The reader/viewer is meant to feel some pity for him at this point and to understand his great depression and equally great self-reproach. With no “tearing of the wedding veil” scene, there is little sense of an abiding danger or evil in the house.

Jamie Bell fares slightly better with the little he is given to work with as St John Rivers, the cold and upright cleric who almost hypnotises Jane into accompanying him as a missionary to India. His scenes have more passion in them than in most of the rest of the film, though he is but a pale shadow of the book-St John, who engages Jane’s intelligence and faith by applying her to teaching in the local school and teaching her German and Hebrew and some Hindi. Despite her lack of romantic love for him, Jane is truly tempted to succumb to his vision of great work in India – only the supernatural manifestation of Rochester’s passion for her will pull her away. And what was St John’s cottage doing in the middle of nowhere instead of on the edge of a village? And why were he and his sisters not revealed as cousins to Jane, thus giving her the loving family she has longed for?
This was all the more a grievous disappointment because I am not expecting any great shakes from the 2011 Wuthering Heights when I eventually see that. Why adapt an intensely complicated book if you are going to omit all of Miss Temple, all but two sentences from Helen Burns, all the humour and most of the passion, and most of the religious sensibilities? Why spend thirty seconds on a montage of Jane and Rochester in love as if they were any other film couple in love? Why not show the agonies of the great moral decision that Jane has to make to forgo her own happiness and that of Rochester, to do the right thing?

My older daughter commented that it was as if an 15 yr old boy had been made to study the text for GCSE and basically remembered some bits from it and couldn’t be bothered with all the hard stuff. (And we both missed seeing a decently huge dog as Pilot.)

I shall return to my mini-series from 1983 with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke, which although dated in its production values, really gives the audience the time (five and a half hours) and space it deserves to see deeply into the themes of this great novel.

__________________
Currently reading: The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins | My reading list | My film list
Colyngbourne is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 14th Jul 2012, 22:42   #2
Beth
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
 
Beth's Avatar
 
Join Date: 22 Sep 2006
Location: Illinois
Posts: 2,854
Default Re: Jane Eyre (2011)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colyngbourne View Post
I can confess to being more of a purist than I should be on Jane Eyre but the novel is so stuffed with emotion, with life experiences informing actions, infused with considerations of the place of women in society, what Christian living and forgiveness look like, what the relations of men and women should be, and virtually of these were absent from this film. Mia Wasikowska was so restrained in her approach to the role that there was little to see of the teasing, the growing infatuation, the repression of feeling, the intimacy of conversation, leading her to see right into Rochester’s spirit, and he into hers. Bronte’s Jane Eyre is small but witty and bossy as well as tentative and cautious, flirty and determined and engaged with life rather than sullen and flat as here.
Woo, it may be hot outside, but no, I think it's just that you're on fire here! Brilliantly blistering of you, Col. Good grief, they even wasted Michael Fassbender?
Beth is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 15th Jul 2012, 19:43   #3
Colyngbourne
Administrator
is beyond help
 
Colyngbourne's Avatar
 
Join Date: 30 Apr 2003
Location: England
Posts: 10,739
Default Re: Jane Eyre (2011)

Oh they did! How great he is in 300 and X-Men First Class (and daughter says in Shame too) and yet he is unable (due to direction and screenplay, I suppose) to infuse Rochester with all that darkness and self-hatred and despair, yet all that keen wit and intellectual engagement. Mostly there is simply not enough time to manage it. Jane Eyre probably should never be attempted as a film - though I understand that Eyre-adaptation fans do rate the Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine 1943 film. Similarly, the anticipated film-version of Middlemarch, which supposedly Andrew Davies was going to adapt from his original and very good indeed 6 hr + 1994 TV serial) seems to have vanished into the ether because it should be practically unmanageable to squish into an average film.
__________________
Currently reading: The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins | My reading list | My film list
Colyngbourne is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Booker Prize 2011 John Self Book Reviews 96 15th Jan 2012 15:17
Highlights of 2011 Colyngbourne General Chat 14 3rd Jan 2012 23:57
Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre pandop Book Reviews 18 7th Jan 2011 16:23
Becoming Jane Colyngbourne Film Reviews 1 31st Mar 2008 14:55
Jane Eyre - BBC 2007 Kimberley Other Reviews 39 7th Dec 2006 13:53


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 23:02.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.