into the woods, and back out again

at Thornfield Manor…

I watched the newest “Jane Eyre” last night.  The girl who played Alice in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” plays the part of Jane in this rendition, and a very good Jane she made.

In a way, it’s surprising that people keep making movies out of books like this.  How many versions of all the Jane Austen novels do we have?  And Jane Eyre is right up there too… IMDb lists 21 titles for Jane Eyre.  I would think it must be hard to come up with new ways to tell these old stories, but I guess this is why new versions keep being made: everyone has the way they think the story should be told.

As far as this offering goes, I enjoyed it, although I don’t know if I could have followed it if I hadn’t read the book umpteen times.  It’s a full two hours, and still crops huge chunks of the story out, since you really can’t tell the story in two hours.  Certainly you can’t tell the story in two hours if you want to linger over any details, which this film does.  There is time spent just watching Jane… which I found intriguing.  Since the story is told from her point of view, that’s what we get in the book–she rarely observes herself, so neither do we.  The film has scenes where she’s teaching Adele, or examining a painting in the hallway, or watching people out her bedroom window.

This time spent simply observing the characters is what this film is good at: it’s like a series of snapshots from the book which help you picture the story better.  With any of the Bronte books, I could never get a sense of the business of the household–my mind’s eye always pictures people alone and never with servants bustling around them.  I always found it difficult to get a sense of Rochester’s manners, but the actor who plays him this time does a good job of being abrupt and sarcastic, but also kind and funny– very much the gentleman, but definitely a gentleman who doesn’t conform to the rest of his society.

The film captures the atmosphere of the book very well.  When Jane is teaching Adele, I got the sense that Jane is content here, at this time, but that her heart yearns for more.  When she is tending Mason while Rochester fetches the doctor, the feeling of tension and fear is palpable.  On their wedding day, Rochester hauls Jane down to the church with exactly the right attitude–he’s so close to getting what he wants that his fear almost overcomes his happiness.

This rendition of Jane Eyre was really good at staying true to the spirit of the book… I just wish there had been more.  The only real problem with the film (besides the Rivers sisters being too thin and not getting enough screen time) is that it isn’t long enough.  It really should have been done as a mini-series.  I kept missing details, like St. John being in love with a girl from town, or the time Jane spends trying to get food after running away from Rochester, or when Bertha tears her wedding veil.  OR the fact that the Rivers are related to Jane–a detail which could have made it into this film, but didn’t.  Much of the visit from the Ingrams is left out and most of Jane’s time at Lowood school is missing.

I mean, really, I just need to go read the book now.




2 responses

  1. I love the newest version. The backward telling is an interesting twist, but I think you’re right that they get the feel down well.
    I love some of the moments… and I LOVE the guy who plays Rochester. In real life, he’s an Irishman who speaks fluent German. Plus he’s about my age 🙂 Ha.

    Anyway, I love this telling. It’s full of feeling.

    One scene I wish they hadn’t left out (because it’s one of my favorites) is when Rochester pretends to be the gypsy.

    I’ve been reading it aloud to my friend Susie. She’s actually British, so when she’s up for it, I have her speak the dialogue.

    May 27, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    • I also thought the backward telling was interesting! The second time we saw her weeping on the moor could have been shortened a bit, though.

      Agreed on the scene where Rochester pretends to be the gypsy.

      Yay Susie! That’s fun 🙂

      May 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm

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