Jane Eyre

I haven't read the book, but you don't live into your twenties without knowing every beat of this story. I want to talk about the 2011 film directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, which is magnificent. Although I knew what was going to happen, before seeing it I didn't know what Jane Eyre was about. Many things, turns out, all of them leading up to Jane's flight from Thornfield Hall, which serves as the dramatic opening sequence of the film. Jane is young, poor, female, with a rare intellect, a bountiful imagination, and ambitions beyond the station God and fate have assigned her. Her horizon is ring-fenced, but Rochester's betrayal pushes her to escape. This is suicide, and Jane is lucky to survive. Freedom is barren when the mores and institutions to foster it don't exist. What is there to do apart from settle for love.

And for that you need respect, your own and that of your partner. This means honesty, and humility. Jane grows up surrounded by deceit, hypocrisy, arrogance and abuse. It is miraculous she has any faith in family or religion at all. And yet she does, resolutely committed to the idea that her essence as a human being conveys a fundamental dignity no prejudice can efface. Rochester is a coward, and must be maimed and impoverished before Jane can accept him. What is attractive about him is that, as a libertine, he doesn't give a flying toss about Jane's provenance or situation. Also, he's played by Michael Fassbender and Michael Fassbender is all caps HOTNESS. Jaime Bell can't rival that, poor guy. He offers wider horizons but a passionless marriage, and his ultimatums suggest it will be far from equal. Jane has to run again, but this time she has money, and Rochester has been cut down to size. So, in the end, she marries him.

Quite interesting that several viewers, while admiring the gothic tone of the film, missed out on the melodrama. This I find surprising, as I teared up three times in the cinema (even though phones rang FOUR TIMES during the screening, one swine even picked up). My guess is that the film dialled back the romance in the novel (which, after all, is narrated first person). Mia Wasikowska's Jane is very controlled, she pushes the emotions inward. I thought that was believable and moving. The whole film is a glorious piece of work, and will (surely?) become the definitive adaptation of the book.

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