Tuesday, 13 September 2011

New Jane Eyre movie. Reader; fill in the gaps

Jane Eyre is a long book. Which is why it easily fails in the 120-minute format of the big screen.  Cary Fukunaga's recent adaptation of the Bronte novel - which I saw this weekend - is astonishingly brief and bits of the story are, frankly, missing.

I happen to have a bit of insider gossip on this film and was relieved to hear from a close friend that Cary Fukunaga had intended to include some of the following conspicuously absent scenes:

1.  The relationship between Jane and Miss Temple, the kindly Lowood teacher.  Even in the movie, this teacher was clearly meant to befriend our Jane because otherwise why would Miss Temple have been so good-looking in a sea of ugly school ma'ams?  Cutting Miss Temple completely from the story makes no sense.  At all.

2. Grace Poole, the booze-loving guardian of Rochester's deranged wife Bertha, only appears once: during Bertha's big reveal.  So much for the gin-swilling scape goat Jane should have blamed for Bertha's bumps in the night.

3. Big, bad Bertha.  Rochester's first, secret wife, the madwoman in the attic has often been a magnet for feminist critics of Bronte's novel, asking quite rightly why the poor loon doesn't get a more sympathetic write-up in the novel.  In Fukunaga's rendering, Bertha  - and indeed her entire family and the critical events in Jamaica - get just a few minutes screen coverage.  Poor form, indeed.

4. And if you thought Jamaica was downplayed .... how about events in Madeira, the source of the fortune Jane inherits from from her wealthy, childless uncle?  This is a crucial part of the story - enabling Jane to return to Rochester as his financial equal, overcoming a major social obstacle to the love they already share as intellectual equals - but all we see is Jane running from St John's marriage proposal in a school teacher's clothes one minute, then she's in a carriage wearing a posh frock the next.  Reader; fill in the gaps.

It wasn't a dire film, though and is well worth watching if you're a fan of period dramas. Mia Wasikowka (of Alice in Wonderland) makes a suitably doe-eyed yet impertinent Jane. Michael Fassbender does well as Rochester but Judi Dench (the housekeeper Mrs Fairfax) steals the show with just two lines when she greets Jane in the burnt-out ruins of Thornfield Hall.  The cinematography is a nod to Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version) complete with will-they-won't-they sexual tension, framed by the long, slanting rays of Derbyshire evening sunshine.  The script is well-balanced with enough comedy to lighten the darkest corners of Bronte's Yorkshire.  And how nice to have some local accents...

One to watch on DVD, I'd say. 

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