I have a feeling that the director of this movie, Cary Fukunaga, was a big fan of the book, and had the great idea to do a new remake of Jane Eyre, except darker and edgier than anything that had been done before, because, well, wouldn’t that be awesome? Sadly, lacking any great directoral skills, the only way he could think of to make a ‘dark’ film, was to make it dark. Literally dark. Smotheringly, oppressively dark. So dark that half the scenes are filmed by candlelight, and all you can see are flickering, orange faces.
For maybe fifteen minutes, this technique makes the film spooky. For the remainder of this film, it merely becomes tiresome and claustrophobic. And while that might work in a horror movie, we have to remember we’re watching a romance story here.
If the rest of the movie were brilliant, Jane Eyre might have been saved, but sadly, brilliant is one thing this film is not. It breaks the number one rule of storytelling–show, don’t tell–and it does it not once, but constantly. There are several notable scenes where flashbacks were very much in order, and instead characters simply narrate to us what happened. In the most dry, perfunctory manner possible considering the circumstances. The movie is a love story at its heart, but we never even get to see Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester fall in love. They share two, slow-moving conversations (seriously, people, you don’t have to pause for ten seconds after every flipping sentence), and then suddenly, they are getting married. Just like that. When the central love story is unbelievable and rushed, the whole film falls apart. It’s a pity, because if the characters had talked at a rate faster than ten words per minute, they might have squeezed in a few more romantic scenes.
Jane Eyre’s greatest fault is that it forgets it is a movie, and plays like a trimmed and lifeless Wikipedia summary of a book. The biggest problem is that the film never gets excited. The music (when there is any) is low-key and wearisome as the lighting and cinematography. Even at the climax, when a sweeping orchestral theme is in order, we get the same boring piano riff that permeates the rest of Jane Eyre. Really, Cary Fukunaga? This is the climax, the single most moving scene in the entire film, and you’re not even going to maybe throw in a violin or two? Just a piano? The same three or four notes we’ve been hearing this entire time? Okay, whatever. At this point I won’t even ask.
Join me later thisweek for a discussion of why The Jane Eyre miniseries on PBS was so much better than this movie.