Jane Eyre (2011 Film)

Jane Eyre PosterJane Eyre is one of the most frequently adapted classics of all time, having appeared on screen somewhere around 27 times to date! Why make so many films out of one book? It’s not an easy story to condense into a TV series, let alone a 2 hour feature. Despite that difficulty, directors are still working away at creating new versions of the story, each one highlighting different aspects and each having their strengths and weaknesses.

This most recent version, directed by Cary Fukunaga, is told primarily through a series of flashbacks. Fukunaga also decided to highlight some of the more gothic elements of the book, creating a dark but hauntingly beautiful film. It starts out a bit slow, but increases in pace towards the middle to end of the story.

“You transfix me quite!”

Jane is faced with some tough decisions throughout the film and, for the most part, she handles them well. She has a difficult childhood and doesn’t behave very well toward her aunt and cousins, but several hard years at school refine her into a much more sensible young lady. When, later in life, she’s asked by her aunt to forgive her, Jane willing does so and tells her aunt to rest in peace.

By far the most difficult choice, however, comes when she falls in love. And I will warn you now that the next paragraph or so will probably contain SPOILERS.

Jane is employed by a wealthy and apparently unmarried gentleman, Mr. Rochester, to be a governess to his young ward. Jane and Mr. Rochester begin to fall in love and eventually decide to get married. At the wedding, however, a man comes forward with the shocking news that Mr. Rochester is already married and thus this wedding cannot go on. Mr. Rochester doesn’t believe this previous marriage is a lawful impediment, as his old wife has gone mad. Jane doesn’t see it in this light though and leaves Mr. Rochester’s house in the night.

Her choice in this case is good, and upholds the sanctity of marriage as defined by the Bible. However, a later choice may be perceived as wrong, if the viewer hasn’t read the book. I’ll deal with that in the next section.
*END OF SPOILERS – FOR NOW*

“Keep him at a distance”

The camera lingers on a nude painting twice and there are also several kisses between unmarried people. Toward the beginning of the film, there are also a couple of instances of violence toward a child.

*HERE THERE BE SPOILERS*
One of the main plot points involves marital infidelity and deception. One character knowingly attempts to marry a woman while he is already married, claiming that his first wife is insane and thus the marriage is no longer valid.

Jane makes the right decision and flees this potentially illicit relationship. As time passes though, she begins to wonder how Mr. Rochester is doing and eventually goes to find out. This is where the trouble starts. In the film, Jane is depicted as suddenly running back to Mr. Rochester, which would imply that she changed her mind and decided to go against her previous convictions. Readers of the book (and, I suppose, of this review) will know that this is not exactly how the story goes. Jane goes to find out how Mr. Rochester is doing, but she does not seek to find him until – well, to avoid major spoilers, let’s just say she doesn’t go to him until she knows it is safe and proper to do so.

While this isn’t clearly portrayed in the film, I do think it’s worth noting that the book does continue to uphold the sanctity of marriage throughout the entirety of the story.
*END OF SPOILERS*

Conclusion

In short, the film contains mature themes and parents should definitely preview it before letting their older children see it. On the whole, however, I do think it has some positive messages and is, at the very least an interesting catalyst for a discussion on the Biblical view marriage and what constitutes a human life. It is also a beautiful film and is – at the moment – my favorite rendition of Charlotte Bronte’s timeless classic.

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