Friday, October 7, 2011

Movie Review: Jane Eyre (1944)

Carew Castle
I have yet to read anything written by a woman of the name Brontë, so I really had little idea what to expect. My best guess was that this would be in the same vein as the works of Jane Austen. (I haven't read any Jane Austen, either, but most of the film productions of her work are distasteful to me.[1]) So I was surprised to discover that this was a Gothic novel, rather than the "comedies of manners" of Jane Austen. By the time this film was released, color film had made its appearance. Given the Gothic themes, I find the use of black-and-white film stock to be the right choice. Orson Welles, who played Edward Rochester, was the one to suggest the use of long shadows and ambient fog [2], both of which add to the eerie and sometimes menacing atmosphere of the story.

Alchemy LXXXVIII - Alchimie _DDC2046
My verdict: The story is an intriguing one, though I think this particular conversion to the silver screen was lacking.[3] Orson Welles was a little too Shakespearean in his acting—I'm not sure that he ever did grasp the fact that when standing near the camera acting must be more subtle or else it comes across as too melodramatic. On top of that his voice is so deep that it often robs his voice of inflection. And his eyes are usually a little bugged out, which makes him look maniacal—even during scenes that are supposed to be tender. It's interesting that Joan Fontaine plays the title character since she also played the lead in Rebecca, which was inspired by Jane Eyre.[4] I definitely intend to view other productions of Jane Eyre to see if I can find one I like better.


[1] The two exceptions are: the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice (which is even better if you turn on the subtitles and pay attention to them) and Pride & Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy (but mainly because I enjoy the inside jokes for LDS viewers).

[2] See Eyre (1944 film).

[3] I was surprised to see that Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, was one of the screenwriters for this film.

[4] See (novel).

Image attributions:

Carew Castle is by Chris Hearn, available at

Alchemy LXXXVIII is by thierry ehrmann, available at

Gothic Angel is by maryn0503, available at

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