Jane Eyre

Sep. 25th, 2011 10:47 pm
madamedeficit: (Default)
As an enthusiast of the original novel, I was never going to love the new film version of Jane Eyre; that much was inevitable. The 2006 BBC miniseries had come close to satisfying me. Toby Stephens almost perfectly embodies my image of Edward Fairfax Rochester, and although I didn't feel Ruth Wilson was perfectly suited to the role of Jane, she acted the part sufficiently well to please me.

From the moment I saw the trailer for the 2011 film version of Brontë’s novel, I was determined to dislike it. 'Mia Wasikowska as Jane?!', I exclaimed to my boyfriend, 'But she's PRETTY!' Before creating Jane’s character, Charlotte Brontë promised her sisters, ‘I will show you a heroine as plain and as small as myself, who shall be as interesting as any of yours', and she certainly succeeded in doing so. I was convinced a physically appealing actress could not possibly portray 'poor, plain, obscure and little' Jane as we knew and loved her. Similarly, while Michael Fassbender is a phenomenal actor, I worried he missed the roughness of Brontë's antihero, who I had fallen very deeply in love with as a teenager.

Nonetheless, I felt obliged to go and see the film, and, for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised. Although I am not entirely convinced by Wasikowska's appearance, her good looks are adequately concealed under plain makeup and clothing for audiences to suspend their disbelief. While Fassbender could never replace Stephens in my heart as Rochester, he looks the part and delivers rude one-liners with ease and likeability. The script is, for the most part, loyal to Brontë's novel. Having written my undergraduate dissertation on Jane Eyre, it would be all too easy for me to nitpick faults and inaccuracies from my academic high horse, but I understand that some changes were necessary in order to appeal to modern audiences. Aesthetically, the film is nothing short of breathtaking.

Regardless, there remain some glaring faults with the film I found it impossible to overlook.

Although Jane’s character is by no means badly acted, Wasikowska lacks the passionate spirit and inner fire of Brontë’s original character. Wasikowska’s delivery of Jane’s famous accusatory speech (‘I tell you I must go! Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton?-a machine without feelings?...’) simply falls flat, lacking the emotional impact of Ruth Wilson’s earlier portrayal.

While some alterations to the plot are easy to overlook, the choice to cut the novel’s ending short, removing the wedding, seems to me a perilous error. Jane’s choice to return to Thornfield as Rochester’s wife, and not as his mistress, is vital to our understanding of Jane’s character, and to the novel as a whole. Additionally, the Rochester that Jane returns to in the film is not the ‘mutilated’ creature of Brontë’s novel, but rather, a sightless and bearded version of his earlier self, leaving the end scene somewhat lacking in impact.

All in all, the 2011 film version of Jane Eyre is engrossing, wonderfully shot and well-written, and should encourage cinema-goers to read Brontë’s novel, which is the best result one could hope for, though I suspect the 2006 miniseries may remain the preference of the book-lover and scholar.


Sep. 23rd, 2011 10:10 am
madamedeficit: (Default)
I've talked about these before, but I can never get enough of talking about them.

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1. Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire: I read this when I was just 19 and living with my first serious boyfriend. It taught me that there was a whole world of sexuality outside of what I had experienced. It helped me to understand what my desires were, and I had to spend a lot of time coming to terms with the fact that I wasn't wrong for wanting them. I'd had an interest in BDSM for as long as I could remember - I remember the boys from across the road kidnapping me and tying me up during a game of 'Batman and Robin', and liking it, but not knowing why I liked it. I remember making Ken kidnap Barbie and lock her in her pink caravan. Anyway, I'd always had this interest but it wasn't until I read Taming the Beast and watched Secretary that I learned how far this desire could extend, and began to properly seek this kind of pleasure out. My boyfriend at the time went as far as using flimsy fluffy handcuffs and spanking me, but there was still something missing. I tried repeatedly to speak to my partner about this but he clearly had no interest in taking things any further. I cheated on him several times in my search for sexual satisfaction. In the end, our sex life was almost totally dead, possibly due to his feelings of inadequacy, or as a symptom of other problems. Eventually, our relationship ended when I cheated on him again. He asked me why and I explained that I wasn't satisfied, and he said, 'I've done everything to try and satisfy you.' When I came out of this relationship, I began actively seeking a BDSM dynamic and spent the next five years getting closer to what I really wanted.

2. Smashed: Growing Up a Drunk Girl by Koren Zailckas: I stumbled across this book by accident in W.H. Smith and instantly had to purchase it. This is a well-written, non-preachy memoir of a young woman's relationship with alcohol/binge drinking, with some interesting booze facts thrown in. Koren began drinking in her early teens, and soon found herself binge drinking every weekend, as many young women do, leading to her eventually realising she had a problem and giving up drinking entirely. Her gritty memoir made me see what I was doing to my body in a way that no parent, teacher or friend had been able to. After reading Smashed, I cut down my drinking considerably and began to think about why I was drinking and how much I was drinking. I grew up with an alcoholic father and as such, considered myself doomed to have a bad relationship with alcohol for life. Zailckas' memoir made me see that it didn't have to be that way. It gave me the courage and determination necessary to escape a cycle that was slowly destroying my body, my relationships, and my self-esteem. If you don't read any other book on this list, please read this one. I am not at all exaggerating when I say that it changed my life.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: While the previous two books changed my personal life, this book changed my academic life. It was my very favourite teacher who suggested I read this for my Advanced Higher dissertation, and as a result, led me to hunger for Victorian literature. This novel made me fall in love with an entire time period, leading me to consistently choose Victorian options over the course of my English degree, and then choosing to study Victorian Literature at Masters level. The teacher who suggested I read it is now terminally ill, and I'm having a rough time dealing with this.

x L x
madamedeficit: (Default)

Just a quick post, as it's nearly 11pm. I was out visiting family tonight when my sister got an email from someone from her old Advanced Higher English class, saying that the teacher was now terminally ill.

This teacher taught me for four years, during which time, her fantastic teaching motivated me to move from average grades to top of my class, leading me to achieve an A band 1 in my Higher and an Advanced Higher. Her teaching also inspired me to choose to study English Literature at University level, and when everything fell apart for me, it was partially her influence that encouraged me to go back to University and complete my English degree.

She encouraged me to read my now favourite book, Jane Eyre for my Advanced Higher dissertation, sparking a passion for Victorian Literature, which I wrote my University dissertation on and am now studying at Masters level.

I always thought I should go back and visit her, to let her know what she'd done for me, but now she's dying of cancer. I have this really vivid memory of her, thin and severe in a black blazer, leaning over my desk to talk to me, pointing at words on my paper with a long yellowed nail, smelling strongly of cigarettes and coffee. I don't think that memory will ever leave me.

x L x


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