Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reader, I married him

While many movie directors’ desperate attempts to stay true to a book makes them forget they are making an adaptation, Cary Funkunaga Jane Eyre illustrates that he understands that a movie should use the unique elements as a medium to provide additional depth and insight to a novel.

One way in which Funkunaga "adapted" Jane Eyre was the liberty he took in presenting the story en media res – it proved to be an absolutely brilliant stroke. It allowed Funkunaga to condense the earlier portions of the book; as the Rivers’ question Jane about her history the camera would cut to short snippets of Jane’s memory to answer the question. When St. John asks about her school, the camera abruptly cuts to the back of a girl’s bare neck that is struck with a stick. In one shot, Funkunaga encapsulated Jane’s experience at Lowell school.

Okay, so Funkunaga knows how to work a camera, but was it really necessary to present yet another movie of Jane Eyre? Jane Eyre has been translated to the screen more than a dozen times – surely everyone has said it all. Right? Au contraire, contrare mon frère! Because so many movie adaptations simply portray the book as a love story, Funkunaga wished to illustrate that there is much more to the novel. Although this adaptation begins in the middle and cuts out large portions of the book, it is the most successful at emphasizing the bildungsroman genre. Mia Wasikowska – thank you for an actress that is not over 30 playing the role of a teenager – shows how Jane is growing up by highlighting her discovery that she has a libido. The movie highlights Jane's ground zero by Jane's conversation with Mrs. Fairfax. This reminds the audience how naive Jane is – she has not traveled or even interacted with men in years; talk about sheltered. The cure? A sexy Byronic hero played by Michael Fassebender. He is perfect – (perfectly sexy.) I mean if this scene does not awaken your libido, you might as well cloister yourself in a nunnery.

It’s not all sex though - it portrays Rochester as – dare I say it – patient. Eh, perhaps patient is a stretch. But I always hated reading the numerous conversations in which Rochester pretends he is going to marry Blanche Ingram; he is such a manipulative jerk. Yet the movie highlighted more of Rochester’s motive – which downplayed the cruelty – by presenting the context of Rochester as a mentor in Jane’s journey to personal discovery. Rochester knows she needed to discover and boldly declare her love for him, so he used jealousy as a tool to exhume these feelings that were deep inside her. (I still think it was manipulatively Machiavellian, but it was a bit more palatable in this interpretation.)

That being said, the proposal scene left me a bit miffed. I don’t know if they used up all the passion juices in the earlier almost-kiss-scene, but I did not feel the chemistry here. One friend suggested that it was because the score was not utilized enough to draw out our emotions. It could be that. Personally, I think Jane is just a bad kisser. (Granted she is better than the last Jane Eyre adaptation. I think Toby Stephens didn’t know how to handle that huge frog mouth and just decided that aiming anywhere on the lower half of her face would ensure a hit – unfortunately he still missed her mouth every time.)

Another element that Funkunaga resurrected from the novel is the Gothic roots. Yes everyone, Funkunaga has put the Gothic back in Jane Eyre. He utilizes long drawn out silences that are interrupted by rearing horses, birds shooting out of the underbrush, and smoke cascading from chimneys. I literally jumped in my seat several times. However, I do wish that Funkunaga could have played up the mad wife in the attic a bit more though. I mean, a mad wife hidden in the attic? How can you not play that up? That is straight Gothic gold sent from the Gothic Gods.

Like the movie, I'm going to end this long review with an abrupt end. While the movie had its faults, lackluster chemistry and exploitation of the lunatic upstairs, this proved to be an incredible movie. Better yet, it proved to be a brilliant adaptation.


  1. love this!! though i do think that both characters were a LITTLE too attractive to be ugly. especially rochester. i also agree that they didn't use bertha as much as they could have, though i got so scared in anticipation. in one of the movies don't they show her watching jane while she sleeps or something? horrifying!

  2. Agreed. Great adaptation. Great movie.

  3. I want to see this SO BAD. LOVED Fassbender in Inglourious Basterds...and I'm glad to hear that the school stuff is condensed to little flashbacks because in the book that stuff is borrrring. Although I have to disagree--I sort of like when he's teasing her, pretending that he's going to marry Blanche. I like to see Jane squirm a little bit

  4. Frog mouth is nothing to the Persuasion kiss. The most awkward BBC/Masterpiece/Focus kiss scene ever.

    Oh, and has your libido cooled down?