Special k woke me at an ungodly (are gods sleeper-inners?) hour this morning, but it had a positive outcome. I was lying in bed reading at 8am, and checked the local movie times, as you do, and noticed an advance screening of Jane Eyre at 11am.
*happy dance from a prone bed-position*
I have been waiting close to a year for this film, and found it almost unbearable when it was shucked back to an August release in Aus. So added to that joy was the joy of going to a movie on my own, which I so rarely do these days (the film industry is dying). The cinema was practically full, which I hadn’t expected and didn’t much like, but luckily I have absorbed by osmosis special k’s preference for sitting right up the front of the cinema, and I had the whole row to myself.
I adored the movie – and there were parts that didn’t quite hit the right notes for me.
I thought the structure was really brilliant, weaving her history in with her current position living with her cousins (although they do away with that mighty coincidence in the film, and Jane just chooses to adopt them). I’ve been thinking a lot about the structure of flashbacks, because the ms I’m reading for Allen & Unwin at the moment uses this structure too. What that book hasn’t quite managed yet, and this film did beautifully, was to juxtapose images and events between ‘then’ and ‘now’ that create a world of meaning by being brought up against each other.
The structure had an interesting effect on the romance as well; her relationship to St John seemed interesting and full of possibilities – until you came to understand what he would have to (could never) compete with.
The romance was utterly convincing, but I found the melodrama a little overplayed, which was a shame. Our writing teachers are forever telling us that as soon as you show a character crying, the reader will feel their pain less, and that was very true for me here. On the other hand I wanted more man-pain from Fassbender, so I’m not quite sure how those two critiques can be levelled out… I find myself with these conflicting reactions to writing more often these days: less of a thing and more of it as well. Will think further about that.
I came away swelled up with the feeling of earnest, life-or-death romance, and realised that even the best romance novels I read don’t quite achieve that. Another thing to think further about.
And now to the important question. Is this my favourite adaptation yet? I should be clear that the only other contender is the 2006 tv adaptation, written by the brilliant Sandy Welch. In some ways that version satisfied me more deeply than the movie – maybe partly because they had more time. I loved how Jane was really able to experience herself for the first time through Rochester’s regard, and their chemistry was without fault. The movie on the other hand looked absolutely stunning, and I thought Jane was made complex in a different way – as when she looks to the horizon and damns her inability to travel beyond it, as a man could.
A scene that both did brilliantly was the first interview between Jane and Rochester. In the tv adaptation he asks her whether she thinks him handsome, and she answers no with a devilish look in her eye, which makes him laugh. She shares in his laugh. In the movie, he asks the same, but as though he already knows her answer. When she does the unexpected, he is perplexed, his mastery of his world is shaken.
Will ponder this further, also.
(the above image was taken from Three Cheers for Darkened Years, where there’s a great review of the film – more coherent and focussed than mine…)