Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jane Eyre 2011

I was finally able to watch this new adaptation of one of my favorite novels. Due to its limited theatrical release, I had to wait for the DVD to come out.

Unlike the novel, which is told chronologically, the film starts toward the end of the story with Jane's escape from Thornfield and discovery by St. John Rivers. This makes the story unfold through a series of memories. Jane thinks back to her childhood and her brutal schooling. Gradually then, we get to the main part of the story, Jane's life at Thornfield Hall. Time and events are extremely condensed due to the necessity of keeping the film short enough for theatrical release, but the emphasis on Jane's memory telling the story explains why passages of time seem to be missing. She is remembering the important moments in her time at Thornfield and in her relationship with Mr. Rochester.
The passage with St. John and his sisters takes on a different shade as well. The relationship is changed between Jane and St. John by their miraculous discovery of shared blood being removed from the story. It also credits St. John with more desire for Jane than he had in the original novel.
There are many important moments from the novel that are missing from this film. The character of Grace Poole is almost entirely missing and Mr. Rochester's house party only appears to last about two days, skirting over some important moments that occur between the characters during it. Having seen the deleted scenes, I believe that the veil ripping passage should have been included, it adds to the reason for Rochester's haste on the wedding day and also adds to the sense of menace and danger of the house's secrets.
Though it does lack many elements from the novel, it does still offer worthwhile qualities for Jane Eyre fans. This adaptation emphasizes the the gothic elements of the story, the other worldliness that Jane possesses and experiences, but also the fearful qualities of Thornfield. It also does an excellent job of illustrating Jane's youthfulness and inexperience. Though the 2006 mini-series adaptation preserves the story much better, due to the maturity exuded by Ruth Wilson, Jane seems to be older. Mia Wasikowska is a younger actress and better captures the fact that Jane is in her late teens, she has no experience with or knowledge of men. Though she is inexperienced, she is full of spirit and has a strong sense of self respect.
Michael Fassbender was an excellent choice for the role of Rochester. He has childlike moments of moodiness, but the deeper levels to his inner turmoil peek through, though still finding a sense of teasing to his behavior at times. Another level he brings to the character is that of desperation. He has an emotional vulnerability influenced by his past that tears the heart at moments.
Rochester is not supposed to be a pretty sort of hero, but he is given many moments of masculine strength, shown in his shirt sleeves working with his hands which makes him develop into a very attractive figure. His interactions with Jane are what make him endearing. He sees into her and appreciates her worth, he treats her with value. This exceeds all of his miserable moods, we see that with Jane he is better, and that helps Jane to blossom as well. They are perfect complements.
It is a very respectable adaptation and would be a good introduction to those unfamiliar with the story. The cast and the artistic development of atmospere is what takes it beyond the realms of mediocre and make it a piece that can hold its own against other adaptations.

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