Jane Eyre (2011) is a film directed by Cary Fukunaga. The screenplay was written by Moira Buffini. It premiered in the United Kingdom on September 9th, 2011.
This film tells the intriguing story of Jane Eyre through a series of flashbacks. The use of a nonlinear time line increases the mystery surrounding Jane's story. It also enhances the Gothic tone of the story by incorporating elements of the unknown. The film opens with an adult Jane approaching a crossroads. This sets the stage for the crucial decision she must make regarding Rochester. It also opens the film with a note of uncertainty by making viewers question what has happened to Jane so far. The story unfolds while she is being cared for by the Rivers family. This is significant because it occurs in the third part of Bronte's original narrative, but in the opening scenes of this film.
This film represents a number of different themes in unique and powerful ways that work to enhance the narrative overall. The themes of education, the Supernatural, captivity, and social class enrich the story while pushing the Gothic and mysterious setting to new levels.
Education is a central theme in Charlotte Bronte's novel. Likewise, its importance in this film adaptation cannot be overlooked. This is first made evident when Jane is sent to Lowood Institution. The film shows her arrival at the school and the donning of her new school uniform, thus transforming into a student. This transformation essentially leads to her new life. This movie shows more of Jane's time at Lowood than some other adaptations. Because of this emphasis on this stage of Jane's life, it is evident that education is crucial to Jane's story. After her time at Lowood, Jane becomes a governess to Adele. It is her job to tutor her and give her an education. The fact that her life continues to revolve around education even after leaving school ties this theme to the narrative even more closely. Furthermore, after leaving Thornfield Hall, Jane finds herself in the position of schoolmistress at a school opened by St. John Rivers. Basically, she spends the majority of her life either learning or teaching, as thoroughly depicted in this film.
The Supernatural has a heavy presence in this film, much like it does in the original narrative. It is depicted in many ways in this adaptation. The setting and atmosphere in particular highlight the supernatural aspects of the story by incorporating classic Gothic elements. For example, the dark, gloomy Thornfield adds to the Gothic mood, as well as the dark, foggy woods. Jane also hears spooky creaking noises in the old house that add to the suspense and tension of the movie. The imagery that these elements provide works to add an aspect of eeriness to the movie that enhances the mysterious story.
Jane's claims as a child that the Red Room is haunted raises the question of the Supernatural. Her willingness to believe in ghosts and the certainty with which she believes her uncle will return adds to the mystery surrounding the Supernatural in this film. Later, when Jane arrives at Thornfield, Adelle tells her that there is supposedly a blood sucking woman who walks the halls. This brings to mind images of vampires and monsters, increasing the Supernatural and Gothic presence in the movie. It also adds to the suspense by putting viewers on edge. Futhermore, when Jane unwittingly meets Rochester on the lonely, foggy road, he says that she has bewitched his horse. He also asks if she is waiting for "imps and elves." In this scene, he alludes not only to the possibility of the Supernatural, but also of the supernatural nature of Jane. This is perhaps responsible for all of the mysteries surrounding her, of which there are many. Another example of this is when Jane supernaturally hears Rochester's voice calling to her near the end of the film. Jane's connection to the Supernatural is never explained, but it can't be denied. She is surrounded by mystery.
Issues of captivity, both physical and emotional, are numerous throughout this adaptation. The film powerfully depicts these aspects. In one scene, Rochester refers to Jane as a "vivid, restless captive." This is because Jane, despite having passions and desires, is held captive by her propriety and sense of right and wrong. She is responsible for her duties in life and quells the passion that she undoubtedly feels. Jane desires to travel and have adventures, but her sense of duty keeps her from it. At one point, right before she meets Rochester, Jane is standing at a window in Thornfield longingly looking out at the world. This scene portrays her desire to see more of the world than she likely ever will.
Furthermore, Rochester is held captive by his unfortunate marriage to Bertha Mason. He is bound by law to be her husband, yet he desperately wants a way out so that he can follow his heart to Jane. Yet his responsibility that he feels for her keeps him from ever really being free, at least until her death. He continues making sure that she is cared for and safe, despite wanting to be free from her. Bertha's physical captivity is another somewhat obvious instance of this theme. She is literally locked up inside Thornfield Hall, like a captive or a prisoner. However, Bertha is also held captive by her mental limitations. She cannot live a normal life due to her mental illness; she is unable to be free not only from Thornfield, but also in the world. She is held captive by her insanity.
While these elements of captivity are much of the same aspects of Charlotte Bronte's original narrative, they are amplified in this film adaptation. The film intensifies and enhances the feeling and air of captivity through acting and visual imagery. For example, when Jane stands at the window looking out, it suggests a type of prison imagery as though she is actually being held captive inside the house. While that is not really the case, she is held captive by her propriety and kept from her true desires due to her sense of duty. The film incorporates scenes such as this one to emphasize emotion tensions without verbally addressing them.
Social class is another notable theme represented in this adaptation. This is seen in Jane's poor upbringing and the little agency that was available to her in society. Jane's social position as a governess raised her above the average servant, but it did not bring her to a level of much agency or influence in society. The social mobility she gained through her role as a governess was lessened, however, when she accepted a lowly position as a schoolmistress. Furthermore, Mrs. Reed discusses Jane's parentage and past right in from of her, which is in some ways unique to this adaptation. It makes it very clear, both to viewers and to Jane, her lowly status and position in society.
Cary Fukunaga's critically acclaimed Jane Eyre(2011) was nominated for a number of awards in 2011 and 2012. The film was nominated for a National Board of Review award, a Satellite Award, British Independent Film Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Goya Awards, Evening Standard British Film Awards, BAFTA awards, Sant Jordi award, and an Academy Award. In 2011, it won the Spotlight Award from the National Board of Review and the award for Best Actor (Michael Fassbender) from the Los Angelese Film Critics Association. In 2012, the film won an Evening Standard British Film award for Best Actor and a Sant Jordi award for Best Foreign Actor. Both of these were awarded to Fassbender for his portrayal of Mr. Rochester.
Fukunaga's adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's novel reinvents the original narrative by using a non-linear time line. This adds depth to the film by creating mystery allowing the story to unfold in an unusual way. By doing this, Fukunaga emphasizes the mysteriousness of the narrative and creates drama by telling Jane Eyre's story in a disordered and, at times, confusing style. In the original novel, Jane narrates her story in a straightfoward way by relating the events of her life as she looks back on it in the present. Fukunaga's adaptation mixes up this traditional story telling pattern and adds new depth to certain aspects of the novel. This adaptation's depiction of the incident in the Red Room is also noticeable. Unlike in other film adaptations, Jane doesn't see the ghost of Mr. Reed outright. Rather, there is a sort of explosion in the fireplace, and a cloud of ashes shoots into the room. It terrifies an already uneasy Jane, and she panics. However, it isn't overwhelmingly supernatural; yet, it is mysterious enough that it could be interpreted as a supernatural event. By depicting the moment in this way, Fukunaga highlights the mystery surrounding the supernatural aspects of the novel, while lending a bit of reality and plausibility to Jane's experience in the Red Room. This could, perhaps, be a way of pleasing skeptical viewers, as well as fans of Charlotte Bronte's original novel.