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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jane Eyre

This one is slightly controversial in that the general opinion of most other critics is that this is a truly wonderful piece of work. Me, I think it's good but nowhere near as great as some might say.

From Artslink.co.za (Originally posted 6 May 2011)



Type “Jane Eyre” into the Internet Movie Database and you'll get no less than 22 exact matches of films/ TV projects with that title. The oldest with the almost unbelievable date of 1910, the latest – our film at hand – dated a good 101 years later. The source text by Charlotte Bronte is also one of the most popular classic romance novels ever written, being right up there with the best work of Jane Austen as far as must read “chick-lit” goes.

And yet I had never read the book nor seen any of its near-two-dozen screen adaptations before stepping, about a month ago, into the press screening of this most recent attempt. I was familiar with the novel, of course, (who isn't?) but, while I do enjoy dipping my toes from time to time into the great canon of literary classics, Jane Eyre has never exactly appeared at the top of my need-to-read list. I certainly have nothing against romantic dramas but I have always had an odd bias against the frocks-and-corsets variation of the genre. I understand the inherent appeal and intelligence of setting great, sweeping romances in a setting that is so defined by its sexual repression and uptight, strictly Christian prudishness – I have just never been able to truly embrace that rather weird mixture of high melodrama and stiff-upper-lip coolness. Ironic, I know, but the thing that makes the genre so interesting, is the exact thing that turns me off it.

I wish I could call this film a great turning point for me; that I have at long last seen the light and converted to that great cause of the Gothic romance but, alas, it wasn't and I haven't. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty to appreciate about the film and it clearly worked for many of my fellow critics – a group who are clearly far more open minded than I. If, indeed, your boat is set afloat by the very sight of damp English countryside and even damper posh Englishmen – not to mention all the meaningful glances and poignant near-touches – prepare yourself for a treat.

Joke as I may, the damp English countryside is magnificently shot, the script is sharply honed and the acting by its four principals – Jamie Bell, Michael Fassbender, Judy Dench and, best of all, Mia Wasikowsa who offers up yet another stellar performance in a very young career full of them – is very, very impressive. It's a classic tale full of all the unexpected love and (mostly) unarticulated desire that is the bread and butter of the genre, peopled by some fairly complex characters and themes.

For me, though, I didn't buy the burgeoning romance at all and, whether it's the fault of a lack of chemistry between Fassbender and Wasikowsa or simply that I was never convinced by the characters, it landed up feeling very artificial and forced to me. It felt more that these two characters had to fall in love for the narrative to work than a depiction of a real romantic and, for that matter, physical relationship.

Jayne Eyre is a technically accomplished and immensely elegant film, but I don't know if it wasn't that exact elegance, that very pristine and immaculate but ultimately sterile sheen, that isn't ultimately the film's fatal flaw or if I simply have an incurable blind spot for Gothic romances. Either way, however much I may admire and respect the film, I can't really say I liked it.




That's pretty much it for this week. I haven't seen Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 and I probably won't. I also haven't seen Let Me In, which I do hope to see soon so I may well post a quick review of it when I do so for now I'm going to not do my best of/ worst of the week. It will be back next week though when there are no less than seven different films to review!

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