Jane Eyre

Just let the sad sink in.
"Even for me life had its gleams of sunshine.”"
Hello Friends, it is that time again! Today I am going to discuss one of my favorite pastimes. See sometimes in the summertime, I like to watch morose movies about English moors and brood about them. Okay, so I like to do it even when it isn't summer, but in this particular case it was summer. The nearby art cinema a town over was showing Jane Eyre, probably my favorite work of gothic fiction, and I had nothing to occupy me for the afternoon (a state so long past that I can't even remember how it felt). Obviously Jane Eyre has been adapted numerous times, but I'm talking about the 2011 film, direct by Cary Fukunaga, probably best known now for True Detective. This film starred Mia Wasikowska, whose name I will literally never spell right on the first try, as Jane Eyre, and Michael Fassbender as Rochester. I haven't been shy about my feelings for Wasikowska, and the types of characters she gravitates towards, but I'll make a rare exception for Bronte, and maybe Crimson Peak when it comes out. Not for another goddamned Alice in Wonderland movie though. Fuck that. Enough about her though, let's talk about Jane Eyre. I'll give you a brief intro if you haven't read it first, and we can go from there. Jane Eyre is a novel written by Chalotte Bronte, about an orphan who experiences a typically miserable and dreary childhood in the late 18th century, being sent to Lowood school for girls, which is bleak and awful, are you sensing a theme. She eventually leaves to become a governess at the home of the eccentric and secretive Mr. Rochester.

You can just TELL things are going to be sexy.
The film starts as a flashback to Jane's youth, before then jumping forward to her appointment at Thornfield Hall, where she is to be responsible for Adele, a young French orphan girl. For the most part, Jane keeps company only with Adele and Mrs. Fairfax (Dame Judi Dench) but after some time meets the master of the house, Edward Rochester (who she first meets when she causes him to fall off his horse by standing around in the road). Rochester is an off-putting and temperamental fellow, but not without his virtues, and he and Jane gradually fall in love, in the dreary and dim confines of Thornfield Hall. Naturally a gothic novel couldn't have people being happy, and so intervening between Jane and happiness are Rochester's betrothal to Blanche Ingram, who is a twit, and also mysterious misfortunes that occur in the manor, that seem to indicate someone else lives in the house, or perhaps a ghost that sets fires (and certainly given the atmosphere you couldn't rule that out). As a woman of morality and also reason, Jane is torn between her passions and her sense of self-respect, an issue I never have especially when I'm at a Chinese buffet.

Fog is the only weather here. And cold dampness.
The circumstances of Jane's life are simultaneously extraordinary and mundane, alternating between fortune and extreme misfortune. As I mentioned above, one of the central conflicts of the novel (and therefore the film) is of a conflict between what is right, and what is expedient and what a person wants. There is also a strong theme of atonement, and the inevitable price that one must pay for their transgressions (and believe me, everyone gets what they have coming to them in this film one way or another, usually not in a subtle way). All of this is great, but I will grant that none of it is unique to this adaptation. These are all things that the movie inherits from its source material. So what distinguishes this film from other adaptations?

This man is in love with her. Also he doesn't realize they're
actually cousins. Oops.
For starters, the movie is paced outstandingly. While I like gothic fiction at least as much as the next guy (probably more let's be honest) it doesn't always translate into gripping cinema. The fact is that the slow burn is one of the defining characteristics of the genre, and while that's great in a book it can lead to a plodding chore of a movie. This film uses clever framing and scene composition to sidestep this problem, keeping the plot flowing and twisting without feeling like it is in a rush. This plotting is accompanied by the sort of gorgeous and melancholy scenery and cinematography that I so enjoy, and that really sells the setting. The performances are also just fantastic, and as annoying as I frequently find Mia Wasikowska, she absolutely IS Jane Eyre, and Michael Fassbender is an excellent Rochester, simultaneously likable and imposing, oscillating between charming and brooding in the space of a scene.

You can be happy after your house burns down.
So basically what I'm saying is if you like gothic stuff, if your favored movie setting is a foggy moor where sad British people talk about their duties and stuff, then this is it right here. This is what you need to be watching.

That's it for today! Join me next week, for a special...treat.

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