Awaken from a Dream_Movie Review: Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is a classic novel by the English writer Charlotte Brontë. The novel was published in London in 1847 by Smith, Elder and Company. The book is said to have been an autobiography Brontë composed under her pen name “Currer Bell.” There were two editions of this book published. The first edition was published by Harper and Brothers of New York. The second edition published by Penguin, has also published the works of Dickens, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and Twain. The second edition marked the novel as a “feminist” work. There have been close to 20 theatrical versions, and almost 10 films of this drama/romance with undercurrents of sexual and social power. My review is of the most recent movie (2011) directed by Cary Fukunaga, with the screenplay by Moira Buffni. The film stars Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre), Michael Fassbender (Edward Rochester), Jamie Bell (St. John Rivers), and Sally Hawkins (Mrs. Reed).
I do not agree with most literary critics (old and new) with regard to this story, and I do not believe that this story can be pegged as a feminist work. I also disagree with movie critics who called Eyre’s character mousy. The story was equally filled with the soul searching journey of both genders. Fukunaga is said to have spent a great amount of time directing visual details in this film. Some of the symbols in the movie were captured in the short trailer, which I have included a link to. There were many visual symbols throughout the film. Some of these included: art (creativity, openness, liberation); books (edification, imagination); caterpillar and butterfly (metamorphosis, change, transformation, release); cage (restraint, confinement); candles and fire (heat, warmth, love, passion, emotion, connection); cemetery, darkness, death (evil, disconnection, fear, loss); cherry blossom (edification, beauty); creatures (force); money and fortune (wealth, fate); rain, wind, thunder (emotions); color red (emotions, fear); sight (surrender); and spirits (soul, vitality, forces).
Following are some of the analytic opposites I was able to extract:
**assumptive elite -vs- assumptive ordinary
**awake -vs- asleep
**fragmented -vs- whole
**heart -vs- heartless
**imaginative -vs- dull
**mortal connection -vs- spiritual connection
**real -vs- unreal
**unsighted -vs- sighted
In the opening Jane Eyre is faced with four crossroads as she is running away. There is thunder in the distance, it is raining, and she is weeping. In mental and physical escapism, she flees the man she loves. In the distance, she sees light. It is the home and missionary post of St. John Rivers.
The next scene takes us back to Jane’s childhood. She is accused of stealing a book from her cousin, a young man. Jane is an orphan, as she has lost her mother, father, and uncle in death. Jane now lives with Mrs. Reed (her aunt). As punishment for taking the book, Jane is locked in “the red room,” and in essence she is caged there. The family and Jane believes the room is haunted by spirits. They do this to torture Jane, and she is threatened with hell. Her evil aunt accuses Jane of having “a heart of spite,” and so she is taken to a home for girls in order to “root her out of the wickedness.” While she is caged in this school, they “mortify the girls flesh” by whipping them, and they must learn that “barren is the life of a sinner.” Still, she secretly begins developing her love of the arts. Jane is struck by tragedy yet again when she looses the only person who has protected her at the school. A close friend and schoolmate dies in bed laying next to Jane. Jane is extremely sorrowful.
Eventually, Jane is offered an “ignoble” position as Governess of Thornfield Hall. She nobly agrees to take the position. The little girl that Jane begins to teach is Adele. A major symbol in a scene with Adele, is when Jane is teaching the child about the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. When she is complimented on the success of her instruction with Adele, Jane replies “if I could behold all that I can imagine.” On a walk into the deep, dark, woods, Jane has her first meeting with the man she will fall in love with. The darkness settles this spooky scene. There is also a shot of a cemetery. When the two finally meet up in the dreary woods, Rochester is thrown from his horse and injured. She helps him up and to his horse, though she does not know he will be her boss. Rochester is taken back by her fearlessness, and also taken by her. He accuses her of bewitching his horse.
Once Rochester realizes that it is Jane who has been hired to work for him, he insists that they sit down together to converse. As they grow to know each other, Jane tells him that she “secures the power of her thoughts through her paintings.” They have taken up by the fire to get better acquainted. When Jane is asked by Mr. Rochester if she thinks he is handsome because her “gaze is very direct.” She says “no” even though she is clearly smitten by his being. He seems stunned by her answer, and asks what faults she finds with him. Rochester is even more stunned when she says “I ought to have replied that beauty is of little consequence.” This is just the beginning of a romance between two very different, yet similar people. Rochester is now falling for his “vivid restless creature.” The fire burns brightly behind them. As she is escorted to her room by the housekeeper, she is intrigued by a fleshly painting.
In the next scene, Jane awakes to smoke and realizes that there is a fire in Rochester’s bedroom. She runs to his aid, and awakes him from his sleep (symbolic). Jane saves him from the fire in his bedroom, and ultimately from his death. He is again amazed by Jane and her selflessness. It is this act which secures Rochester’s love for her. Embarrassed, he asks Jane not to tell a soul about what has happend, and she agrees. He understands he can trust her. Rochester than leaves right after the fire, possibly fearing their connection. He held her hand and wanted to kiss her for saving his life, but didn’t. Jane was sad to learn that he would leave, and would not return for a year. He would also be visiting another woman whom he had planned to marry. This was a woman with higher social status than Jane. Money and fortune remain amply symbolic in the story.
On his return, Rochester brings back Lady Ingram. They are all in a living room scene comprised of assumptive elites, and Rochester insists Jane come. She does not want to be there, nor does she want to be around snobbish people. At one point, Lady Ingram sarcastically says “a man’s beauty should live in his power.” Rochester then replies sarcastically, “then a pirate would do for you.” He is beginning to realize just how shallow and dull the people he surrounds himself with really are. Jane is repulsed and leaves the room. Rochester quickly follows her to ask why she left. He likely knew why, but still asked. In this conversation, there is a fire burning in the background as they speak. He beautifully tells her “you transfix me quite.” Rochester becomes agitated when Lady Ingram calls Jane a “creeping creature.” This can be seen as a deciding point with regard to his fascination with Jane. It is at the height of a mutual fascination when Jane must leave to be with her torturous dying aunt. Symbolically, this can be seen as another attempt at mental and physical escapism, and an attempt to disconnect. To her dismay, the inadvertent tactic has worked. When Jane returns to Thornfield Hall, she learns that Rochester is engaged to be married. He is set to marry Lady Ingram, and she is again brokenhearted.
She does not want to, but Jane tells Rochester that she must bid him farewell. He tells her “I have a strange feeling with regard to you, as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in you. And if you were to leave, then I am afraid that cord of common would snap. And I have a notion that I would take to bleeding inwardly. As for you, you would forget me.” Though he is engaged, he did not want to be and so his heart and soul remains with Jane. She says “how? I have lived a full life here. I have not been trampled on. I have not been petrified. I have not been excluded from every glimpse of what is bright. I have known you Mr. Rochester, and it strikes me with anguish to be torn from you.” Rochester asks Jane why she feels like she has to leave. They talk about him being engaged, but not yet married and he tells her she “must stay.” It is painful to hear her response. Jane replies “and become nothing to you? Am I a machine with no feelings? Do you think that because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little that I am soulless and heartless? I have as much soul as you and full as much heart. And if God had blessed me with beauty and wealth, I could make it as hard for you to leave me as it is for I to leave you. I am not speaking to you through mortal flesh, it is my spirit which addresses your spirit as if we had passed through the grave and stood at God’s feet, equal, as we are. I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.” She then feels she is being mocked when Rochester calls her his equal. He says that he wishes to marry her, and calls Lady Ingram “a machine without feelings.” Realizing the true worth of Jane he tells her “it is you. You rare, unearthly, thing. Poor and obscure as you are. Please accept me as your husband. I must have you for my own.” By now, she is convinced. She agrees to marry him, and they kiss as the thunder rumbles.
Following, Jane has a conversation with the housekeeper who basically tells her she isn’t good enough for him and not to trust him. She tells Jane to “keep him at a distance.” At that moment Rochester rides up on his horse and asks Jane what is wrong. She stays quite, and Rochester being surprised asks “Jane with nothing to say?” She finally says that “everything seems unreal,” and he assures her that he is “real enough.” It is great when Jane replies “you, sir, are the most phantom-like of all.”
Next comes the symbol of cherry blossoms, her wedding dress, and the wedding day. When they are about to take their vows at the altar, the marriage is stopped by an unknown man. The man turns out to be the brother of Rochester’s wife. All this time, Rochester had a wife. She is mentally ill, and secured in a secret room of his mansion. I felt that the mental illness of this hidden wife, was symbolic of a disconnection between the couple. The hidden wife was kept caged, but so was Rochester. There is very little about this woman in the film, showing her only briefly. The fact that Rochester stayed married to a woman who could not love him back, and whom he had lost connection with was also symbolic of a psychological cage. In shadowing the cage motif, the set designers made the fireplace in this scene resemble a cage. Rochester then lights a fire in that cage when sitting to talk with Jane about his wife. In this scene, he tells Jane “I could bend you with my finger and my thumb, a mere reed in my hands. But whatever I do with this cage, I cannot get at you, and it is your soul that I want. Why don’t you come of your own free will?” Crushed by the unbelievable secret, her only reply is “God help me.” They are both heartbroken.
Jane runs away into the night and Rochester desperately calls for her. This is when the movie returns to the opening scene. It is thundering, a symbolic wind is against her, and she faces a crossroad in her life. The thunder in the distance continues to roll, and it is raining. Jane was weeping for the man she loved, but still runs from him. Now she sees a light at the missionary post of St. John. Jane ends up living in this mission, and for some time feels she has found a physical haven from Rochester. It is clear that mentally she will have no escape. Jane has recurring visions of the man she loves. While she is at the mission, she has a waking dream. In the dream, she opens the door on a snowy night to find Rochester. He kisses her as a fire burns brightly behind her. She then awakes. Eventually, Rivers attempts to force Jane to marry him and become a missionary. While having this conversation with him, she can hear Rochester’s spirit calling to her on the wind. Running away yet again, she decides to return to Rochester.
When she returns, she finds his mansion in ruins. She worries that he may be dead, but can still feel his presence. There was a fire which consumed his home. It is never clear how the fire started. What is clear is that the fire consuming his material possessions is symbolic of Rochester’s complete loss of himself and his ideals in Jane. Rochester believed for so long that he had it all- he had money, power, fame, and beautiful women when he first met Jane Eyre. Through Jane, he was able to find himself and realize that he had been asleep. He learned that what really mattered was genuine beauty (inside and out) and connectedness. The last interesting symbol is that of sight itself. The fire had blinded Rochester. Jane finds him sitting on a bench facing a sunset which he can not see, but can likely feel. The fact that he is blind can be seen as a symbol of surrender. Rochester and Jane both surrender to notions of how their lives “should be,” and accept each other. In closing, Jane caresses his face. Though he has not seen her in sometime, and will not see her again, he knows it is her hand. He tells her “a dream,” and Jane Eyre lovingly replies “awaken then.”
Jane Eyre Movie Trailer
This entry was posted on October 8, 2011 at 11:28 PM and is filed under Analysis, Authors, Books, Movie Review, Symbols and Imagery, Writers. You can subscribe via RSS 2.0 feed to this post's comments. You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.