Jane Eyre

This week has been pretty fascinating, as I started a PGCE and one of the perks was a day at The Broadway Cinema in Nottingham learning to analyse film. Well, I wish had undertaken that training before I watched the latest adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's masterpiece, Jane Eyre.

What do I mean? We studied the importance of various techniques used in cinema to 'construct' the film. For example, the 'establishing' shot - usually a sweeping wide angled image which immediately lets the audience know where we are. Which then continues with use of sound, use of 'gaze' and close ups. So putting my new found skills to use, here's my 'reading' of Jane Eyre.

Unusually, Jane Eyre, starts with and establishing shot of the adult Jane, silhouetted in a dark door way, breathing in panic, before she bursts out into the rough gardens of Thornfield Hall and legs it for freedom across the moody moors. We can't place her location, or at what point in the drama this is. Then suddenly she flees (wide angled shot) and cuts a harrowing figure on the close ups of her 'plain' face as she struggles against the elements before collapsing at the doorway of St John, and his sister's, home.

I liked Cary Fukunaga's adaptation - it's dark, moody, not at all glamorous (like I suspect a Merchant Ivory production would make it) and, for as far as it's possible, he has tried to pick a 'small, plain' Jane from Hollywood in the form of Mia Wasiskowska. Okay, she's hardly plain, but she's not Anne Hathaway. She has something ethereal and non-standard about her. She's interesting to look at, and that's a good thing, as there's not a lot of dialogue or emotional register for a great deal of the film. Again. That's a good thing. Jane isn't hysterical. We need to see a resilient and defensive heart, relent and melt for a temporary high when she finally does succumb to Rochester's wild charms.

Michael Fassbender is an excellent Rochester, but he's far too easy on the eye. In my reading of the book, he was much more cantankerous, unpredictable, moody and offensive - but I guess, without casting someone so odious it's unbelievable, it's a difficult role to cast. As the audience, you do want them to get together, so he needs to be alluring.

Use of 'gaze' is very interesting - almost voyeuristic - as we stare intimately at Jane, or at what Jane is looking at. Her restrained face gives emotion away only in the close ups and the subtle variations in her eyes, or the very corner of her mouth. It's a very interesting technique for a big epic film, to focus on being so intimate.

Also of note was Jamie Bell, who's St John is equally awkward and subordinate as Jane is to Rochester. So you can tell from watching one what the other must feel. We know he loves her (even if you've not read the book) because he's mirroring her restrained, awkward behaviour we've witnessed with Rochester. Bell is proving to be a mighty screen presence - understated and memorable.

My only criticism would be the 'non-digetic sound' (eg the soundtrack) was over bearing in parts. Also, where was the happy ending. It was a interesting and pleasing directorial choice to snip away the 'baby and sight returning' bit, but if it's in the book, there's going to be a significant part of the audience waiting for it to appear in what was, on the whole, a faithful adaptation.

Talking of which, there's no spoilers here. If a book's been in print since 1850 then that story can be considered common knowledge. It reminds me when I went to see Baz Lurhman's Romeo & Juliet and I overheard one girl weeping hysterically, that "no one told me they both die." Honestly.

Anyway, I've waffled on. In summary, Jane Eyre is epic and understated, submersion and intimate, and one which I will happily watch again. And for a costume drama, it lends itself well to the big screen. Don't miss it in the cinema.

5 out of 5 - moody goodness.

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