Thursday, 15 September 2011

A plain Jane and Eyre time

Zero and I went to see the new film of Jane Eyre earlier this week. It was worth five stars according to the review in The Times, but we weren't convinced of that (we do occasionally agree on things). We found it a somewhat plain Jane, in which you didn't really see more than slight glimpses of Jane's personality, and in which some scenes that are full of meaning in the original book fell rather flat. It is OK, but not five stars worth.

What struck me most about the film was a feature of its lighting. In many scenes, Jane and Rochester are lit from just one side, so that half the face is lit and the other half hidden in shadow. This has a touch of realism about it - if you are holding a candle in your right hand it will illuminate the right side of your face and leave the left side in shadow - but it was interesting to compare it to the 1996 film by Zeffirelli where no such effect is used. In this earlier film there is a much greater sense of a portrayal of Jane's character, and it seems to be indicated in the greater willingness to film a full face. There were one or two clever flash backs - so that Jane is shown greeting Rochester when it is in fact St John Rivers who has called to tell her about her fortune. This example, I felt, didn't fairly portray Jane's character, suggesting a kind of obsession rather than a romantic love. The music for the sound track is well chosen, but again seems to have the effect of hiding Jane's character and the character of her relationship with Rochester, rather than revealing it.

As the credits began, Zero gave a big stretch and a yawn, and assured me that she had not fallen asleep.

A letter in today's Times draws attention to how different films set the story at different times. The two dating bench marks in the films are the dates shown on Helen Burn's tomb and the dating of the marriage of Rochester to Bertha Mason. Apparently, the new film places the action at a later date than previous representations; and they all place it much later than the timing that the author of this letter suggests is indicated by the internal evidence of the novel itself, which would place it in the first decade of the 19th century.

Sir, Why do successive film directors wilfully misdate the action of Jane Eyre?

1 comment:

Rita said...

First decade of the 19th Century would suggest the dying days of the Empire line frock and costumes more akin to Jane Austen, and that is the problem I think.

Directors struggle to associate such costumes with "Emo literature" (I'm not sure they write Gothic) of the Brontes.