(I read much less elegantly/yellow-ly)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Eyre-athon Reviews

I've now finished my Eyre-athon of screen adaptations. Huzzah!! It's not actually quite as totally "finished" as it could possibly have been, but I think I did fairly well nonetheless. (As movie taste is subjective and adaptation taste is DOUBLY subjective because it's also based on book taste, I'd love to hear other opinions!)

1934, Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive
 photo 220px-Jane_Eyre_1934_DVD_zpsbf5990b0.jpg
About to sing a duet.
This version is a hoot. Not only does it seem like an adaptation created by someone who received an inaccurate 2-minute synopsis of Jane Eyre, it also seems like an adaptation created by someone who received an inaccurate 2-minute synopsis of how human beings interact normally with each other. The characters bear virtually no resemblance to their literary counterparts- Virginia Bruce's Jane is pointedly referred to several times as "beautiful" and smirks and swaggers her way about to the point that you want to shake her and say "Who do you think you are- Blanche Ingram?"

 photo 9gag-auto-266225_zps84a32bc6.jpg
 Rochester is Adele's jovial, loving uncle in the process of divorcing his wife, who in her reveal scene calmly strolls into the room in a pretty dress and says "Edward, darling, are we to be married again?" Raging madness = mild confusion, apparently. Add to that the inexplicable and frequent use of Adele as slapstick comedy relief (HEY GUYS that young child just fell over the rail of the staircase into an umbrella stand! I wonder if she can breathe HAHAHA), and well, you're left with the worst ever adaptation of Jane Eyre.

 photo images_zps433f3b24.jpg1944, Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles: This is a truly excellent film and artistic achievement in and of itself and I recommend it highly, even though it is not the best adaptation I watched in terms of faithfulness to the book. It's classic Old Hollywood-  super Gothic and melodramatic, with beautiful use of black and white and atmospheric lighting and tense violin music. Joan Fontaine is...ok? I don't know, she's sort of bland and simpering for Jane. Orson Welles is awesome. He chews the heck out of the scenery, and he's awesome.  I feel somewhat hypocritical for writing so positively because I'm being accusatory of all the other adaptations for not being faithful to the book, and I don't know why I DON'T feel the same way about this version. Maybe it's because the alterations in the other versions result in something that is artistically disappointing, whereas in this one the alterations are done so well that they result in something that is different but still respectful of the original because it's good? *takes a deep breath* Maybe I'm overthinking this. It's a great movie. Watch it!

 photo EYRE-JP-2-popup_zps3c96872c.jpg
 photo attachment_zps9248c45c.jpg
Join us, Jane! Welcome to the world of dated family-friendly comedy Westerns!
1970, Susannah Yorke and George C. Scott: Meh. This version feels badly miscast and rather as if it was going through the motions. Probably because I will forever think of him as Ebeneezer Scrooge/the guy from The Changeling, George C. Scott is, in my opinion, not right for Rochester -besides speaking with an on-again-off-again American accent, his performance feels obnoxious, blustering and stilted rather than tortured. Honestly, he'd be a better Brocklehurst. Susannah Yorke's 30-something Jane looks  like she belongs on Here Come the Brides due to her elaborate 70's hairdo and, while doing a decent job, she sheds no light into the character's complexity. The romance is absolutely lacking in chemistry and the story essentially just lurches from important plot point to important plot point. The dialogue in the end is particularly terrible and sappy and I yelled at the TV, but other than that this version is just a little worse than mildly displeasing.

1973, Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston:  Proof to me that word-for-word accuracy to the text does not a good adaptation make. The creators should have taken heed that films are an entirely different art form from books and there things that work on the page that simply don’t on screen. I'm an adaptation purist generally but this version just takes it too far. To try to include as many of Jane’s thoughts as possible, there is this terrible, overbearing voice-over narration.  Jane has to interject every few minutes (often in the middle of conversations)  to describe things that are either 1) totally apparent already and have no need of explanation  2) unclear but could easily be made apparent without a wordy explanation with better acting and an effective screenplay 3) specific little details that have a place in the narration of the book but come across as the weirdest of weird non sequiturs on screen. Overall, my reaction is this:

 photo tumblr_mj1ns0xMc21rjddpuo1_500_zps40fd984b.gif

Also, Sorcha Cusack drove me crazy as Jane. She was constantly doing this coy/surprised, eyebrow-raised smile thing. It would've been okay if she had done it just once or twice but it was her response to EVERYTHING and it was so bizarre and distracting.

 photo jane-eyre-1973-9_zpsd8347e4b.jpg  photo YOURFACEISGOINGTOGETSTUCKLIKETHAT_zpsb953bb52.png  photo jane_1973_2_465x310_zpsf639930e.jpg  photo images_zps62f889e9.jpg  photo 6a00d83467174c53ef01310f21dadc970c-800wi_zps771b1b9d.jpg photo jane-eyre-1973-8_zpsaec7e3fb.jpg
 ALL the time. 
 photo images_zps4ade12fa.jpg
1983, Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton: Mr. Pricklepants from Toy Story 3 = Rochester = WIN. To me, this version does the best job of putting the book on the screen, due to spot-on acting by the leads and a script that is super faithful to the book but effectively adapts as well to convey the powerful emotion of the original story. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Now time for a Happy Rant. Zelah Clarke is wonderful as Jane. She is by turns quiet, composed and thoughtful, ardent and strong-willed, and chipper and playful. Everybody says that Timothy Dalton is too attractive to play Rochester, but for me at least, when the actor so masterfully captures the character's nature -and he simply IS Rochester - tormented, brooding, commanding and bitter but also somehow charismatic, wry and loving and all that under the sardonic surface- his looks are second to that ability. (Plus I, for one, will never make a complaint about Timothy Dalton's looks under any circumstances whatsoever.) This is the only version that takes enough time and manages that time so well that you truly believe that Rochester and Jane are soulmates. There are a few scenes that could definitely have been sped up, though, (it takes much too long for Jane to get to Thornfield once she's grown up at Lowood) and, like many old  period dramas, it suffers from a stagey air and poor production qualities.  BUT in my humble opinion, it's the one to watch.  If you could combine the lovingly faithful, top-notch quality content of this version with the lush production values and style of the 2011 version you'd have the PERFECT Jane Eyre adaptation.
 photo Jane-Eyre-1983-jane-eyre-7318740-500-375_zpsb8df5077.jpg
It kind of looks like Jane's neck is going to be snapped whenever they kiss.
 photo images_zpse3f628ee.jpg 

1996, Charlotte Gainsburg and William Hurt: I watched it a few years ago and was underwhelmed and intended to revisit because I couldn't remember anything other than that I disliked it but then I got distracted by this Wii game where you're an ocean explorer and you solve mysterious legends and heal whales to the soundtrack of Celtic Woman. SUMMER PRIORITIES. So here is the imaginary conversation I have with this adaptation  (Jane Eyre  is Jack Donaghy's teenage nemesis here, and I'm Jack Donaghy, dammit!):

 photo tumblr_lh83j3BlCQ1qcrzkko1_500_zpsdefbd219.gif
1997, Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds: Did not watch. But word on the street is that Ciaran Hinds plays a Rochester in need of anger management therapy. 
 photo images_zps62c65ce6.jpg
Ah, the staring into the mid-distance!

Somebody get these two a golden retriever puppy to cheer them up. 
2006, Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens:  I couldn't find a copy of this one but I watched it a bit ago and I remember thinking that it was pretty okay but not fantastic (Be astonished by my specificity and thoroughness). I watched it and the '83 version at the same time, and while Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens were fine in their respective roles, Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton made wayyyyyy more of an impression on me. Also, I remember that there were some really silly, random changes and the dialogue was altered in an attempt to modernize, all of which is quite saddening to me. Oh! And the really controversial thing is that this version is fairly sexed-up; there are some flashbacks with Bertha (I think? I hope I'm not imagining that, because that would be weird) and it's pretty steamy when Rochester's trying to convince Jane to stay after the whole mad-wife unveiling debacle. It's not like I'm automatically righteously indignant about that, but if it's untrue to the way the characters would actually behave -which, at least for any making out after the wedding, it definitely is- or if the actual relationship-building content of the story is gotten rid of just to make room for more hanky panky then I'm not too happy. I'd say this version is worth a watch, though.

 photo jane460_zps82145039.jpg
 photo 215px-Jane_Eyre_Poster_zps9b6740c7.jpg2011, Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender: This movie is beautiful –sweeping music, lovely artistic design and cinematography. Every minute is a visual delight. Mia Wasikowska is an excellent, dynamic Jane who manages to capture the nuances of the character despite the film's shortish running time. It's very enjoyable to get swept up into the lushness and elegance of this version.  BUT in my opinion, it is crucially flawed in that it is sort of a Jane Eyre Lite that's too dark.

 photo tumblr_lst1q7lrB61qg39ewo1_500_zps976f461d.gif
I can't believe I actually found a use for this.

Allow me to elucidate: obviously it’s a serious story but there are also many moments of delightful warmth and humor that are totally absent here, and a lot of the excessive time spent on dramatic shots of Jane gasping and stumbling on the moors could have been better used in fleshing out  the relationship between Jane and Rochester with more accuracy to the amazing dialogue  Bronte wrote between the two (much of which is condensed, excised or inexplicably altered here, leaving Fassbender’s Rochester pretty bland.) The heart of the story is glossed over - to me, just as much as it’s a story about suffering and loneliness, it’s even more about the joy of life and the incredible beauty of the regard and affinity human beings are capable of developing for each other. I think this version focuses to much on the former and tells the story in such a way that we as viewers are expected to take the latter for granted. Basically.... Jane and Rochester spend too much time brooding and furtively watching each other wander the rugged terrain so then when the story's like "You're kindred spirits! NOW KISS!" you're like, "Um, sure, let's go with that?"  So it is definitely flawed but it's quite nice in several ways as well and it's gorgeously filmed.  

The End. The takeaway lesson is that I'm not a biased critic at all.  Nope nope nope. 

 photo no-thanks_zps71a23460.gif

No comments:

Post a Comment