Adapting Jane Eyre


The 2011 adaption of Jane Eyre by Cary Fukunaga uses cinematography, facial expressions, acting, movement, surroundings and dialogue to create a faithful and interesting adaption which captures the sense of the novel by Charlotte Brönte. The opening sequence of the film up to the red-room scene will be analysed by comparing the novel and the film adaption to show the intertextuality, differences and the manner in which the first person narrative is conveyed. The order of events are shuffled in the film by using the flashback technique. The film starts towards the end of the story. Jane Eyre looks afraid, distressed and haunted as she flees from something unknown to the audience. After Jane is rescued by St. John Rivers and his sisters the film flashes back to the beginning of Jane Eyre’s story. The flashback technique creates suspense and adds drama and mystery to the story. Fukunaga excels in making Jane Eyre the narrational centre of the film. The story follows Jane and allows the audience to experience everything through her. The direction and cinematography of Fukunaga creates atmospheric surroundings for Jane. This adaption of Jane Eyre stays faithful to the first-person point of view which allows the story to be portray Jane’s consciousness, passionate nature, loneliness and fighting spirit.

The film starts with a dishevelled and distressed Jane Eyre running away from Thornfield, but the audience is not aware of the location or reason for fleeing. The camera focuses on Jane’s face to visualise her inner turmoil which is further emphasized by the heavy breathing, sobbing, howling wind and violin soundtrack. The wide shots and landscape creates an atmosphere of isolation and loneliness which is experienced by Jane Eyre. “[Jane Eyre] was weeping wildly as [she] walked along [her] solitary way: fast, fast [she] want, like one delirious” (Brönte 274). The film excludes Jane’s complete journey to St. John Rivers- it is much shorter, because she never enters the village where she would beg for food, shelter and work. In the novel, after she leaves Thornfield: “A weakness, beginning inwardly, extending to the limbs, seized [her], and [she] fell… [she] was soon up; crawling forwards on [her] hands and knees, and then again raised to [her] feet” (Brönte 274). It is at this moment where the film picks up and disregards the coach that arrives and Whitecross. The film shows Jane Eyre knocking on the door of a house and soon collapses, because of fatigue and hopelessness. Instead of first being rejected by the servant, Hannah, Mr. St John Rivers finds the collapsed Jane Eyre. By using the flashback technique the film creates suspension and emphasizes the loneliness, sadness and turmoil that fills Jane Eyre’s life.

The blurred image and muffled speeches while St John Rivers carries Jane inside the house gives the audience an inner look into the perspective of Jane Eyre as the narrative. The audience experiences her confusion and shock which allows them to experience this event through her eyes and sympathize with her. When Mr. St John Rivers and his sisters ask about her name, the voice of the young John Reed hauntingly echo’s Jane Eyre’s name in her conscious. In Jane Eyre’s state of shock and deprivation of food and sleep, she starts to relive the day in Gateshead where John Reed bullies Jane and she ends up in the haunted red-room for defending herself. Fukunaga brilliantly links the event of Jane’s escape from Thornfield with the red-room scene that occurs in the beginning of Jane Eyre’s autobiography by using a hallucination to signify it. In Jane Eyre’s mind she travels back to the day were the novel begins- her rebellion, where she felt the same emotions of isolation, suffering and fear.


The next scene starts where John Reed searches for Jane Eyre from Jane’s point of view behind the curtains. This creates a sense of suspense and familiarity with the young Jane who hides. John Reed discovers her hiding place and hits her with a book. “The cut bled, the pain was sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded” (Brönte 8). The camera focuses on the young Jane’s face and portrays the moment of initiation perfectly. It shows how Jane overcomes her submissive nature and stands up for herself, deciding not to be a victim of John Reed’s punishment. The surprised expression of John Reed and the shock portrayed by Mrs. Reed and the servants indicates the significance of the moment. The red-room scene does not give a proper portrayal of the novel. The red-room indicates the turning point in Jane Eyre’s life and is a recurring motif in the novel. The novel provides a detailed description of the red-room and Jane’s inner struggle, but in the film the decoration is incorrect and furthermore, the room is barely shown and Jane’s turmoil is downplayed (even changing Jane fainting out of fear into hitting her head). In the novel Jane is absorbed with feelings of alienation, fear and injustice. Although this scene is not emphasized in the film, it does contain the essence and root of the idea behind the red-room scene- the injustice towards Jane and the start of an independent Jane Eyre.

The flashback technique creates an important by-product in the film adaption of Jane Eyre. The character of Jane Eyre is more haunted with her past and her feelings of despair and sadness is highlighted throughout the film. Through the analyses of the first part of the adaption of Jane Eyre by Cary Fukunaga, the film can be seen as successful. A film is only an interpretation of the novel and the 2011 adaption contains the sense of the novel by Charlotte Brönte and fixes the story strongly around Jane Eyre and her point of view.

(The intellectual property of Nikki Leibbrandt. Plagiarism is illegal.)

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