Jane Eyre

So here I am, just back from watching the new Jane Eyre.

I am feeling rather stunned by it, and I want to rest, but I feel I need to talk to you about it first.

I am feeling rather stunned by it, like Jane does in the beginning, when she is hit hard, and her ears ring, and everything else is muted.

But we need to talk.

First, let’s get this out of the way: It is too short.

I was expecting it to be abridged, of course. It’s movie length, after all, and the book is quite long and complex. A good deal of boiling down had to occur.

I was even expecting to feel irritated at the inevitably short shrift that certain scenes, certain themes, would get in this version. To want to discuss, after, the pros and cons of this version against its predecessors. Strengths, weaknesses. Room for improvement.

But I didn’t. And I can’t.

I loved it so much it hurts.

It’s certainly not without its flaws. But I stand by that: I loved it so much it hurts.

Something about this version was like a gut punch to me. I still feel like holding my midsection, and concentrating on my breathing — careful, shallow, and slow.

In fact, I think I held my breath through most of the last two hours. And now, my lungs hurt. My throat is sore.

Bear with me.

So: yes. It was abridged. It was abridged in the way that movie trailers are. Entire scenes were compressed into brief flashes of light. Entire characters were distilled into a few barely overheard lines of dialogue, off-camera. Blurred.

It was like seeing the whole story through a half-filled slide projector. It was like those ads that you see on trains sometimes, flashing past your window as you go hurtling by, the series of images briefly, indelibly searing themselves onto the back of your mind.

It was like remembering a dream, in rapidly evaporating snatches that still, for a few wonderful, frustrating hours, somehow manage to evoke the whole.

I loved it so much it hurts.

But it was not perfect, not by any stretch.

For instance, I can’t imagine what it was like to see this version as a newcomer to this story. Literally: I can’t, in all honesty, begin to fathom what it feels like to be a newcomer to this story, I have lived with it for so long in my skin. Did this version do it justice for those first-time viewers? Probably not.

Truly? I can’t say that I care a great deal about those viewers.

Let’s face it, I’m pretty intensely selfish about the story of Jane Eyre. I’m selfish about Edward Rochester. When I turned around and saw all those people at the end, I felt angry that they had all been there for such an intimate thing.

Perhaps jealous is the word I am looking for. No? I think that it is.

For me, this version felt like the book. It felt like the loneliness and solitude of the book, and like the barrenness of the book. The incandescent joy of falling in love with Rochester — and of being loved by him — was painful in its brightness, in its glare, against that backdrop of bleakness and deprivation, just like it is in the book.

The agony of the scene in the library, after the botched wedding, a scene which so many versions shy away from, was perfect. It gutted me, eviscerated me, in exactly the way I like this story to gut me.

The ending was too abrupt. Grace Poole was all but absent. Some methods of abridgement were far less successful than others.

But I stand firm.

Let’s face it: Jane Eyre is my favorite story. I love it in its whole; I love it in its particulars.

The fact that this version was retold in snatches, like recalling a dream, was utterly, wrenchingly effective for me.

FLASH John Reed hits me FLASH Mrs Reed hates me FLASH Lowood School hurts me FLASH Helen Burns leaves me FLASH

FLASH

FLASH

A horse falls in the woods

FLASH

A fire in the bedroom

FLASH

A crack of lightning splits the chestnut tree

FLASH

FLASH

FLASH

Whitecross, the moors

FLASH

FLASH

Jane. Jane.

I am coming.

I do recognize that I am an easy mark. Do not think that I am blind to this fact, that it evades me somehow.

It may well not have been this Edward Fairfax Rochester, this Jane, this Blanche, this carriage ride, this moorland, that was at all magical or powerful. Maybe it was all muscle memory, and this movie merely evoked just enough of the story to revive all my oldest, deepest feelings for the book.

I have no idea, quite frankly.

But for me, each component part stood up, took place, took its pose, as the tableau that I knew in my heart, each successive scene pulling the breath out of me more, until finally I was just

breathless.

Yes: The ending was too abrupt. I needed much more.

But I will always need more of this story. I will always need more of Rochester, of Jane.

I’ve written, elsewhere and at length, about what deeper meanings Jane Eyre holds for me, personally and professionally.

I told you, it’s my favorite story, ever.

And I am just a lousy critic of this story, is the thing. I am quite entirely incapable of being at all evenhanded in my judgements with this story.

So yes. Yes, later, let’s talk about this soberly. Let’s dissect what worked, what didn’t, what compressions left you lacking, what alterations left you wanting.

I will. I will write about this more, later.

But not now.

Right now I need to breathe.

 

 

Related: Check out the later conversation I had with fellow blogger and Jane Eyre freak @Fellowette, in which we went into all the messy details of what made this version rock so hard.


11 Thoughts.

  1. I loved it, too! I was surprised as well, because most movie versions, even when good, don’t do justice to the book. But I agree that while things obviously had to be left out, it stayed true to the spirit of Jane and her story. I saw it weeks ago and still now find myself thinking about it every day. It was amazing! I want to see it again. And again and again.

  2. it is so lovely to be in the presence of someone who loves jane eyre as much as i do. i am waiting with bated breath to see the movie, but i fear i will feel the same way about the intruders in the theater — that really i deserve a private showing. (did you see it at the cape cinema?). even the choice of who to take with me…. maybe i should insist that they read the book before they go. my mother did that to me with gone with the wind…. but gone with the wind IS NOT jane eyre.

    i just watched the masterpiece version again for the umpteenth time a few weekends ago, because i was feeling low and i needed it. ah.

  3. I adore Jane Eyre. Your post stirred my love of the story. I can’t wait to see this version on screen…. and then promptly reread the book for the millionth time!

  4. I loved it too- even as I wanted wayyy more Thornfield time. I thought the film was exquisite in portraying Jane’s perspective, and the cinematography was stunning. Can’t wait to hear your second round of thoughts.

  5. You just know that they are sitting on an eight-hour-long director’s cut, weighing just how much we’ll be willing to pay for four extra hours of Thornfield (and oh, let’s say another hour’s worth of reunion at Ferndean, at least). I’ll start the bidding now, if it’ll make it arrive at my doorstep any sooner.

  6. Stunned – that’s the word! That’s exactly how I felt when I walked out of the theater this afternoon. I could not say anything to my daughter for a full fifteen minutes after the film ended. We both agreed that it was extraordinary how such a quiet film could sneak up and WHOOMP you at the end. Sort of like Jane’s surprising effect on Edward…

    I agree that this version was not perfect and some characters were incomplete, but, but, but…it was still breathtakingly beautiful. I felt compelled to de-lurk to let you know your reaction was shared by others – and I hope you’re right about that director’s cut!

  7. Seriously can’t wait for your book!
    This blog post alone makes me want to RUN to the theater with a box of tissues and a defibrillator.

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