Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Search for Jane Eyre Continues

Edit May 16, 2018: For updated and added reviews and content, visit my new website Lit Lovers & Corset Laces

I've been seeing quite a few faces that might be suitable Janes lately. Just thought I'd share them with you. Comment and tell me what you think!

Claire Foy
First up is Claire Foy. I ran across her quite by chance when watching the BBC adaption of Little Dorrit,  and something about her struck me as very "Janey". Foy isn't what one would really deem naturally pretty, and her performance in Little Dorrit was both sweet and reserved (like Jane) and very young and naive. The problem with her is that she's twenty-seven, which is much too old for Jane. I was actually quite surprised when I looked up her age because she struck me as so much younger. Despite the age problem, Clair has some great strengths. She was raised in Leeds and therefore probably knows the natural Yorkshire tongue and mannerisms that would fit Jane's culture, and she's also (obviously) had experience in solid literature adaptations. Here is a clip of her below. Judge some of her scenes in Little Dorrit and tell me whether you think something about them is a bit "Jane-esque".

Andrea Riseborough
Once again, another girl whose age I was utterly surprised to find out. But something about this lady is so pixie-like and spritely that I just couldn't help but somehow imagine her as Jane. This picture was from The Devil's Whore; a movie that I watched for the satisfaction of seeing Michael Fassbender. Yet, as the movie progressed I couldn't help observe her strong performance, and sure enough the back of my head told me that something about her might be able to suit Jane Eyre. The far-away and forlorn look in her eyes that manifests itself in the movie walks hand in hand with the same wistful gaze I imagine in Jane. Here is a clip from The Devil's Whore:

Felicity Jones

Yet another one whose age surprised me! What is in the water over there in the UK that's keeping people from aging? Anyway, I loved her in Cheri and that's all there is to it. Even though I couldn't stand the movie in its entirety, I like the reserved, young simplicity of her performance and I would REALLY love to see her as Jane. Her face has the perfect juxtaposition of angular roundness that I described in my visual Jane, and the piercing hazel of her eyes fits the character perfectly. She too has a good dose of experience with period pieces. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a clip, so you'll just have to watch Cheri for yourself.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier

"There is a story behind every book." A middle school English teacher of mine used to utter those words incessantly, much to the chagrin of her pupils who answered with the usual amount of eye-rolling and guttural groans in the back of the room. Should it be some divine epiphany to realize that there's a story behind a book? Isn't that the point of a book in the first place? In whatever literal or figurative context one chooses to examine the phrase, it is rather useful. In this case it is particularly true of my reading experience. There is seldom a time when I don't remember what exactly led me to read a book. The events prior to a novel's purchase are just as important as the object itself in my eyes, serving as a prologue to the adventure of reading. It is my personal opinion that everyone should read the prologue.

With that being said, I came to Rebecca after going through a particular Hitchcock movie phase. From what you've seen from your fellow blogger, I'm pretty sure that it isn't hard for you to believe that once I latch onto an obsession, I delve into it with a vigorous depth and intensity. After seeing the genius of Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious, I sought more. The search brought me to Rebecca. I approached the film having no idea that it was adapted from a novel, but after finding out that such a thrilling and utterly capturing movie had taken its roots from a piece of literature it wasn't hard for me to go out to trusty old Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy.

What I found was familiarity; the first-person narrative of a young and unsophisticated girl who crosses paths with the tortured older man. I witnessed the gravest flash of deja vu as the aforementioned child attaches to this damaged soul who possesses the complicated (and arguably rather creepy) mixture of both paternal and passionate love for her. He sees in her all the contrasts to the life and people he knew before and places the burden of his purification and escape from sin on her thin little shoulders. But fate spins both characters a screwball and all secrets are now exposed, revealing him to be the true villain and stripping all naivety and innocence from her. If you've any experience with my blog and don't recognize the obvious similitude between this plot and that of another novel, imagine me taking your shoulders in my hands and giving you a violent shake.

Yes, Rebecca shares a plethora of similarities with my beloved Jane Eyre. The unnamed main character wanders dizzily around the globe, uncertain of her place in it. She wishes for an escape from her repressed life of habit and duty. It just so happens that it is while she is submitting to this life that she falls into the path of the man who will change it. The forty-two year-old rich widower, Maxim De Winter, is the answer to any woman's prayers. Never described as handsome, but directly characterized as shadowy and "medieval", this bad-boy should be able to find a spot in the reader's heart right next to his likenesses; Rochester, Heathcliff, etc. Like the latter literary counterparts, Maxim succeeds in luring our main character with his enigmatical conversation, Jaded glances, and moments of irrepressible gloom. However, unlike the Brontes who assert the obstacles with unreserved blatancy, Du Maurier takes a different approach. All courses seemingly run smooth. Maxim De Winter sweeps our timid little protagonist off of her feet, proposes to her after two weeks, and seems to take no notice of her obvious lack of poise and social connection. There is no ruined wedding or insurmountable conflict to hinder them. At least, not at first...

The new "Mrs. De Winter" feels awkward and diffident in world molded for her superiors. She doesn't understand what Maxim expects from her, but is all too conscious of what his neighbors and friends (and housekeeper) demand. The girl who grieved over lack of identity is now stricken by it. She feels nothing more than the "second wife", the "other woman", and the legacy of the woman before her haunts both her and her husband. The author emphasizes this haunting so much as to name the entire novel after this first wife while choosing not to even identify the name of the second. Rebecca is just as much of a main character as Mrs. De Winter and Maxim. Though not present in body, her actions are carried out through the minds of each character. Even though we have all the plot elements of a mysterious gothic love story, it is not the relationship between Maxim and "unnamed protagonist" that commands attention, but the woman who has been dead for years.

I've made quite a mess of this review with my rambling thoughts, but the essential point here is: READ IT! If you have a taste for the mysterious gothic classics, there's absolutely no reason why you wouldn't like it. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wuthering Heights 1939 Review

Once again, I must ask excuses for the length between posts. I underestimated the weight of my homework load, and thus have not had much time to blog. With that being said, I also realize that my last few posts have been extremely Jane Eyre centered. I apologize for that also, but justify it with the excuse that with the excitement surrounding the DVD release it's been very hard to keep the novel out of my brain. But now I believe I've come to the end of my rather unhealthy obsession. I've watched the movie countless times and have settled into the comfort and familiarity of having it, which means that I no longer need to write about it and its source material every minute of the day. However, I will continue my "Search for Jane Eyre" because that is a subconscious journey. I still encourage you to submit comments and guest posts (ahem, Miss Lady Disdain!). 

With all Jane Eyre demons exorcized, my thoughts now turn increasingly to Wuthering Heights. It's natural for you to wonder why. After all, I was the one who emphatically stated my dislike of the novel in an earlier post. I guess the true answer to that is the fact that though I find the book melodramatic, cruel and insane, I can't resist a good literature adaption. In preparation for Andrea Arnold's take on the beloved tale, I've been taking in a few of the previous adaptions (which are about as numerous as Jane Eyre flicks, I might add). The first one I revisited was the 1939, seeing that it was that particular version that I watched first and prompted me to read the novel in the first place. 

We should all know the plot of the novel and even if you might not, there's too many twists and turns in the plot for a remedial teenage writer like me to explain it to you. In so many words, this profound piece of literature dwells on the love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff; two characters that defy fate and the normal "starry-eyed" love story by falling in love and then wrenching themselves apart. 

The 1939 version was one of the first black and white films I ever watched, and strangely enough it was the first literary film adaptation I ever laid eyes on (yes, even before Jane Eyre). The dauntingly fair-faced and high-cheekboned Merle Oberon claimed the role of Cathy and opposite her was the handsome and well-chiseled face of Laurence Olivier. Both went on to be in that category of timeless Hollywood elites. 

Before delving into the process of reviewing the film, I must make one thing clear. Though I have read the book in depth, I don't place as much weight on it as I would on a Jane Eyre adaption. Therefore, I do not necessarily rate it based on faithfulness to the source material. With that being said, however, I do like to point out some details. 

The first thing I immediately noticed after feasting my eyes on this adaption just a few days ago was the obvious lack of concern shown for the characters' true ages. Merle Oberon is obviously not nineteen (wasn't Cathy nineteen, or somewhere in her younger years?) and Laurence Olivier doesn't do any better. One thing that I've noticed about Bronte novels is the fact that ages are imperative. I've reviewed many adaptions of a particular Bronte piece (hmmm, I wonder which one?) and always dwelled on the importance of the character's age. The same idea stands true with Wuthering Heights. Cathy and Heathcliff are still teenagers, which means that a naive and childlike heart still dwells in them. In simpler terms, it's easier to justify two teenagers running across the moors and dreaming up spectacular fantasies than it is when seeing two adults. 

Merle Oberon as Cathy
With age being discarded, however, I actually enjoyed how Merle and Laurence executed their roles. Merle was a fierce and stubborn Cathy that matched the spiritual essence of the one in the novel. Laurence was decidedly less dark than the "real" Heathcliff, but I found him much more humane than the actual character. When he comes into the kitchen uttering wishes for Cathy's forgiveness, a slight "aww" escaped my lips. Even though the line wasn't mentioned anywhere in the novel, it made Heathcliff a much more likable character that I was willing to sympathize with. The actors matched each other well--a surprising notion when one actually understands how much they despised one another (and the director) when the camera wasn't rolling. I probably wouldn't have had it any other way. By casting two actors that hated each other, Cathy and Heathcliff's turbulent and blatantly hostile relationship was captured perfectly. 

Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff. Is it insane to crush on
someone from another time?
Yet, once again we must remember the time period in which this film was made. This era was not known for its subtle acting approach. Outdated "slapping" sound effects, fake crying, and a boisterously string-filled score make a melodramatic plot all the more eye-rolling, sometimes crossing the boundaries of cheesiness. But of course, one would expect that of a film made in '39. 

I'm not trying to be tedious or anything, but what happened to the other half of the film? Cathy dies in chapter sixteen. There are thirty-three chapters in the entire novel! Whether it be the need for glorification  of romance in black and white Hollywood or not, it's a shame to take absolutely no note of half the novel. Yet, even this can be partially justified. To tell the second half of the story would be to expose Heathcliff's cruelty; a thing that audiences in '39 wouldn't have liked to see. 

All things considered, this adaption deserves to be watched. But just like the black and white Anna Karenina or Jane Eyre, it's not worth a watch for its faithfulness to the text. It's simply one of the immortal movies that have cleared a spot in film-making history. If you have a taste for the classic black and whites then you won't hesitate to give this one a try. If not, then I'd strongly recommend you stay away from it. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Doodling in English Class

The school year always bring back old habits. 
I never draw during the summer for the simple reason that whenever I sit down with pencil and paper, I can never capture what it is that I want. I have to be in a place where my imagination roams unwillingly. 
My pictures are actually drawn in the classroom on a boring day when the teacher is talking too much. It is then that my mind comes up with the best images, followed by the best capturing of those images. 
Today it was Jane Eyre during fourth period AP English Language while my teacher went over Huckleberry Finn. I put pencil to paper and this is what came out. It's obviously not finished, but most likely it will be done during study hall tomorrow. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Letter to My Fellow Lit Lovers

Dear Lit Lovers,

I have it! I sit at the computer with the satisfaction of knowing that the 2011 adaption of Jane Eyre now belongs to me, sitting on my bed with plastic wrap discarded. I feel as if a large weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. The movie is officially in my possession to watch over and over. *sigh*

That is all I have to say. I'm going to go watch it now, look at the deleted scenes, and take a peak at Cary Fukunaga's commentary. I'll get back to you later.

--Ari (aka Bonnie) 

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Search for Jane Eyre

I was sifting through some of my old posts and came upon my forgotten "Richard Armitage is my Rochester" post in which I shared my ideal cast of Jane Eyre. While Richard Armitage has always been (and always will be) without a doubt my exact image of Rochester, I remember running into particular troubles finding the woman--or perhaps I should say teenager--to play the beloved heroine.

Rachel Hurd-Wood: the actress whose come closest
to what I imagine as physical look of Jane. 
In actuality, I must say that I embarked on the "search for Jane Eyre" three years ago after I put down the book for the first time. Since then, my mental image of the character has taken a permanent residence in my head, always lurking in the corners of my mind. Whenever I watch a movie, I keep my eyes open for the girl that might prove worthy of playing my favorite literary heroine. When walking the streets, I'm always an apt observer of the people around me, and more than once I might find myself examining someone and thinking "she has the physical makings of a Jane." Yes, I understand that this can be found creepy on many levels, but I'd rather look at it as the exercising of an active imagination. 

Abigail Breslin: I think she'll make a
presentable Jane when she gets older. 
Every avid reader has (or should have) a mental image of the main character(s) of the novel that either springs instantly or seeps slowly into their head. More often than not, that image remains tucked cozily in the corners of a reader's mind. If the reader just so happens to revisit the book that image reemerges, most of the time unchanged. As lovely as this experience may be (yes, I do call the work of the imagination lovely), the unfortunate problem with these mental prototypes are that they are rarely fully embodied on screen or--for that matter--at all. 

My image of Jane Eyre is rather detailed, and this is the first time I've ever endeavored to type it out. As my fingers move across this keyboard, I can almost see her before me. I envision an eighteen-year-old girl; one who possesses a wiry and rather undeveloped physical build but whose countenance has an innate sense of maturity. She has the customary "Jane Eyre" box-brown hair, pulled into a neat and severe knot. Atop a circular and yet slightly angular face are large observant green eyes, naturally piercing and captivating. Their fixed gaze is both comforting and poignant in its intensity. Her face is pale, tiny freckles lightly and sporadically dotting her cheeks, though they may not be evident at first glance. Her lips, I imagine as thin with corners slightly upturned, painted with a perpetually forlorn smile. She is short, skinny, projecting a person that appears perhaps younger than her age because of her lack of curvature. The innocence and purity of her outward appearance is at direct variance with the knowing and jaded look in her eyes. From his place near the fire, Rochester observes her and notices the kinetic attraction of the opposition between the solemn calmness of her exterior and the sprightly vigor of her mind. Her words are sharp and at times incisive with their subtle sarcasm. Beneath the simplicity of her opinions lie a decidedly deeper cryptic message.

Richard Armitage (picture from Robin
Hood): my PERFECT image of Rochester.
Her Rochester counterpart is the opposite of her in almost every way. Where Jane's features are soft and rather inviting, his are masculinely angular and (yes) morose. He towers above her, probably just eclipsing six feet while her petite form dwells in the area of 5'5. He has (as described in the novel) an athletic figure; solid and naturally strong to the point of intimidating. His dusky dark curls are windswept from frequent travel by horse, shadowing an already tanned (perhaps approaching olive-hued) face. He has thick eyebrows, knit together in a menacing embrace atop which the glowering haze of his troubling memories sit. Underneath those are penetrating and sullen eyes, so dark that one can barely tell where the iris ends and the pupil begins until holding them under close inspection. His nose is straight and decidedly strong-featured. Beneath those are the "grim" thin lips, set in a brooding line to complete his foreboding exterior. He is decidedly ugly in the eyes of society in the mid-1800s, but to Jane there is some kind of strange appeal to him. His foreboding physical appearance and his sardonic nature make him a dangerous sort of enigma; something about him is ominously attractive. 

Now that I've imparted to you my image of the legendary Jane Eyre (and her leading man), I'm giving myself a challenge. Most of you fellow Lit Lovers are deeply acquainted with the novel, reading every piece of Jane Eyre-related material I've ever written. Instead of keeping this mental "search for Jane Eyre" concealed, why not make good use of my quest and share it with my fellow bloggers? And better yet, why not allow these bloggers to embark on this journey with me? I love the feeling of coming to my blog and seeing paragraphs of comments lined up on my posts. I read each and every one of them and make it a point to reply. By sharing my search with you, I am both providing myself with a sort of catharsis and receiving the joy of interacting with you guys. 

For the next few weeks, my "blogging doors" will be open to anyone who wishes to share their mental image of Jane Eyre (and/or Rochester). I urge all of you to write a description of your Jane whether it be as a comment to this post, or by submitting a guest post. My email address is available on my profile for those who wish to send me their description, whether it be only a sentence or paragraphs long. Along with that description, I would appreciate it if you also included your name and the name of your blog (if you have one). I guarantee that each submission will be posted.

So how about it, Jane Eyre diehards? Are you with me?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Another "Jane Eyre" Analysis

I've been going on a "family tour" for the last few weeks of summer, which explains why I've been a bit out of touch and a lot more inconsistent with my posts lately. Oh, the wonders of the internet! I spend half a week without it and feel like I've completely lost touch with humanity. Well, precisely ten minutes ago I helped my mother unload the car, grabbed the laptop, darted up to my room and immediately went to my Blogger dashboard. What is there waiting for me?

Deleted scenes from the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre! Eeep! My heart was leaping and my mind was rejoicing, and I hadn't even clicked the "play" button to see if they were any good.

I've missed three days of internet, which means that I've missed three days of "Bronte Blog" news (yes, I visit the blog daily). After sifting through the posts from the last few days, there seems to be nothing else that's particularly exciting. We have the usual positive reviews of the 2011 film and mention of the new Wuthering Heights adaptation.

Luckily, I'm not completely behind because the clips were just posted on the blog today. After watching them (multiple times, I might add), I've come to my conclusions. The clips are attached below. If I were you, I'd look at them. I don't think they would ruin the movie if you haven't seen it, so I won't really caution any readers from other countries.

There are four clips released from what I take will be the "deleted scenes" portion of the DVD coming out in only a week here in the US (squeal), though I hope that a few more will be included. Based on what I've seen in a few featurettes and the trailer and read in the script supplied by the movie tie-in novel,  these may or may not be the only ones on the DVD. If so, then I've probably ruined the surprise, though nothing will deter me from purchasing the DVD on August 16th about fifteen minutes after I hop in the car from my first day of the school year.

If you're putting the clips in chronological order from if you were reading the book (or viewing the movie) then the first is the "Badminton in the Garden" clip. In other words, this is the missing scene that those who deemed the relationship "rushed" would have liked to see included in the film because it gives  Jane and Rochester one more conversation before the burning bed scene. Here, Rochester looks up at Thornfield and lets Jane into some of the specifics of his past by painting the portrait of Adele's background.

       Personally, I have absolutely no idea why this scene was cut at all. The acting was solid, the scene fit perfectly into the progression of the movie, and more screen time between Mia and Michael is always welcome with me. The way this scene was orchestrated was subtly magnificent. Mia plays on Jane's innocence here, asking seemingly harmless and curious questions. When she asks "to fall in love, sir?", I'm truly struck with the idea that Jane believes love to be a painless sort of romance. Through Mia's slight movements of the eye and inflection of her voice, I get the true subliminal message that this is the first time that Jane has ever heard that love can actually bring out the worst in people (jealousy, bitterness, etc).
       I remember that Michael said in one of his interviews that he wanted the weight of Rochester's memories to almost physically manifest themselves through his gestures and actions. For some reason, I received that message a lot through this scene. Maybe it's the fact that Rochester is a lot less formal without the presence of his coat, or perhaps it's the way he washed his hands in the pond water. Either way, I got a really great physical sense of Rochester's masculinity and strength. Fassbender and Wasikowska played well off of each other. While Mia's Jane is asking seemingly innocent questions, we can see the slight stab  Rochester receives when looking into his memories through Fassbender's sharp intake of breath and his intense delivery of the "stream of life" analogy. Why didn't they keep this scene in???

Next deleted scene: "Jane Meets Rochester in the Staircase." This is a "deviation" scene, meaning that it wasn't actually in the source material so it was just a minute scene.
       This clip was fine, but rather unnecessary. I could see why they cut it out. When reading the screenplay, I was actually hoping that this scene might be included as a deleted scene just to see how the actors would carry it out. From what I read, it seems like it might have been included just to provide the audience with one more piercing glance from Rochester. I imagined it as something along the lines of the "I would do anything for you" clip where Jane thinks he's talking about someone else, but it's obvious by his gaze that what he's saying is really intended for her. I was surprised when this scene actually presented quite the opposite. The actors interpreted it literally. Rochester actually is directing the comment towards Blanche Ingram and doesn't even give Jane the slightest bit of recognition. Either way, it wasn't included in the movie and nothing suffered because of it. All it would have done was just add another forty-eight seconds and give us one more line from Blanche.

The third scene is what everybody was really going crazy for here in the US. It's the scene depicting the tearing of the veil and Jane and Rochester's conversation afterwards. A lot of people were really disappointed that this scene didn't make it in, so it ought to be a treat to watch now.
       Once again, WHY did they not include this scene? I loved it! It actually sent a slight shiver down my spine. The tearing of the veil in other adaptions didn't seem half as scary as this one. At the same time, I could have done without Bertha laying down on the bed and snaking up Jane's body. Something about it was a little too sexual. In actuality, I don't really know how I felt about it. The sexuality of Bertha's actions could easily be interpreted as all the more terrifying because of the blatantly close physical proximity between the two characters. On the other hand, others might take it as intensely melodramatic. Even with that point in debate, I still think the scene should have been included. Not only would it introduce a bit more of the gothic feel to the adaption, but it's also an extremely important scene to include! I also really liked Jane and Rochester's conversation afterwards. It was short, but pointed, and even tender. For those of you who've seen the movie, including this scene would mean that things would be slightly re-orchestrated. You couldn't just plug it in like filling in the blank.

The last scene is a different take on Jane's escape and a bit more pleading from Rochester as well as the horseback scene...
       I mentally divided this clip into two halves; from the start to 1:16, and from 1:17 to the end. With that divide in mind, I hated the first half. It's a basic waste of film and is highly infused with a large amount of cheesiness and repetition. I love Michael Fassbender to death, but every actor has some bad takes. The first half of this scene was one of his. I understand the desperation and longing, but something about the tone of his voice when he pleads "I need you, Jane!" was extremely reminiscent of Marlon Brando screaming "Stellaaaaa!" in A Streetcar Named Desire. The way he said it struck me as (I'm sorry to say it) horny rather than an actual heartfelt plea.
       With that being said, however, he toned it down for the "second half" of the scene (1:17 to the end). Instead of pining through the door and harping "I need you", he lowers his voice to a whisper and says "listen to me, allow me to make it up to you." Here I feel my heart warming, and then finally when the camera flashed to him with his head against the door uttering a soft "I love you", I can feel three hearts breaking; his, hers, and mine. At the same time, even the second half gives me mixed feelings because I really liked the way they arranged Jane's escape in the actual film and you can't really include his plea without tweaking that arrangement. Basically (CAUTION: SPOILER) if you want to see Rochester knocking on the door and saying "I love you", then you've have to see Jane jumping out the window. If you inserted the plea into the actual film the way it is, then it would conflict with the method shown in the film where we see Jane's escape begin from her opening the kitchen door, turning her head fearfully to listen for a noise, and then treading through the garden to her escape. When it comes down to it, this scene was probably better off not being included because I liked the escape shown in the film.

What do you guys think? You know that comments are always open and I always love to respond!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wuthering Heights 2011 Release Date

Ever since the release of the Heathcliff screen cap last week, things surrounding Wuthering Heights 2011 have begun to pick up. We've received a clue (or, in my eyes, a warning) that at least one of the key scenes is done rather differently (I really DO wonder which one) and now we've gotten the UK release date.

Lucky Brits! Only a month after the rapture of Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre, you will be enjoying the privilege of watching Wuthering Heights on November 11th. I'm still waiting waiting waiting for the US release date. Something gives me the slight inkling that we're probably going to have to wait for it. The problem with British-made movies is that in order to be shown in the US, an American film company has to pick it up. Lets cross our fingers and hope that Focus will step up to the plate since it seems that they're pretty renowned for going the "literary adaptations" route.