You might remember my first blog post in which I offered my thoughts on the recent Jane Eyre film. At this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival I had the pleasure of attending a Jane Eyre event with the film’s script writer, Moira Buffini. During the event, Buffini explained the purpose of the new version: to create an interepretation relevant to a modern, 21st century audience. This central concern, she added, was the main reason for reducing the gothic element in the script. The lack of gothic emphasis had been one of my main criticisms of the film. According to Buffini a great deal of the gothic storyline, such as Bertha’s night time wanderings and tearing of Jane’s veil, had actually been filmed but ended up on the cutting room floor, being considered too melodramatic and unrealistic for a contemporary audience. Without having access to this cut material it is difficult to reach a firm view on whether or nor this was the right decision and we are left to wonder what the original script would have offered.
Buffini also spoke about the decision to begin the film at the book’s midway point. Begining the action at Jane’s most vulnerable moment (when she flees Rochester and Thornfield) was designed to throw the reader immediately into Jane’s inner consciousness, an alternative to first person narration which can often detract from the intensity of the action on screen.
The altered location for the ending (which I won’t spoil for you if you haven’t seen the film or read the book) was explained as vital to mainting the momentum of the story and offering a more action centred alternative to the domestic surroundings in the book. Although I found the ending somewhat rushed, I have to agree with Buffini that the location and photography of the landscape throughout the film, ‘allows the audience to feel Jane’s emotion epically’.
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about whether the film lived up to Buffini’s hopes for it and will end with one of the key debates at this Cheltenhem Literature Festival event: is Rochester attractive and, if so, what is so appealing about him? Buffini commented that Rochester is capricious, cruel, rude and deceitful but ultimatley values truth, recognising Jane’s own truthfulness and seeing to her core. An audience polarised into two camps: love him; and hate him, led to a suggestion that perhaps the reader’s view of Rochester is affected by the age at which the reader first discovers the book. A number of audience members admitted that – approaching the book for the first time in their thirties, forties and later – they found Rochester deceitful, dangerous and extremely unappealing, being themselves more compassionate to the plight of Bertha. Whilst younger readers owned up to finding him completely irresistable. I have to confess that I fall into the latter camp, trusting in Rochester’s desire for redemption. Please get in touch with your thoughts on this and keep the debate going!
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