''Jane Eyre'' was published in 1847 and brought fame to its author, Charlotte Bronte. The book incorporates many themes: the relations between men and women, gender equality, the treatment of children and of women, religious faith and religious hypocrisy and the notion of true love. The 2011 movie is a faithful and intelligent adaptation of the classic novel. The film follows the basic storyline closely although the approach to the story and the way certain characters are portrayed differs from the novel.
Portrayal of Characters and Location
Look at the physical portrayal of Jane Eyre. The book describes her as being unremarkable in the way she looks. The film preserves this premise and therefore maintains the importance placed on her character.
Analyse how Lowood School is depicted. The film's interpretation of the harsh manner Mr. Brocklehurst and the rigid strictness of the school are the same as the novel. There film deviates in two ways, however. Firstly, the way in which Jane's relationship with the school authorities develops is less evident in the film. Also, the death of Jane's friend Helen from typhus results in improved conditions, because it becomes clear that her illness had been caused by poor diet and cruel treatment.
Consider the role of Jane's aunt and cousin. These characters are untrustworthy and cruel in the book and the film. For instance, the scene in which Jane is physically assaulted by her cousin appears in both book and film.
Consider the importance of Sarah Poole. In the book, Jane suspects she is the person responsible for the fire and the stabbing at Thornfield Hall. In the film, Sarah is hardly mentioned. Adele talks about a mysterious woman who appears at night but this plot line is not developed further in the film.
Evaluate the portrayal of Jane's strength of character. Many factors showing that she is a strong woman are present in the book and the film. For example, Edward Rochester asks Jane Eyre to detail her "tale of woe" but she refuses. Despite the harsh conditions she faces, her character is compelling because she remains strong and the film follows the book in emphasizing this point. Jane's rescue of Edward Rochester from fire is another action taken directly from the book that shows her courage.
Key Events in the Film and the Book
Think about the events that lead up to Edward Rochester meeting Jane Eyre. Rochester injures his ankle when he falls off his horse which leads to him meeting Jane at the house. This film scene is taken directly from the book. The portrayal of Edward Rochester is generally similar in the movie and the book.
Consider the importance of Richard Mason's arrival in the film. This event and the actions it triggers (the subsequent stabbing and Jane Eyre's involvement afterward) are taken directly from the book.
Focus on Edward Rochester's proposal to Jane Eyre. This action faithfully follows the book. Also in both the book and the film is the solicitor who shares information about Rochester's previous marriage at a crucial point in the ceremony.
Think about Jane Eyre's inheritance in both forms of the story. She inherits the fortune of her long-lost uncle. In the book she learns she is related to St. John Rivers and his sisters and consequently shares the fortune. However, in the film she adopts these people.
Film Techniques and Story Approach
Evaluate the use of the flashback technique. Although the film keeps the fundamental framework story, the order of events is shuffled using this method. For example, the film starts near the end of the story when Jane Eyre drifting in the rain, impoverished and homeless until she is rescued by St. John Rivers and his sisters. From this point, the film returns to the beginning of the story. Unlike the film, the book begins with Jane's childhood and moves forward chronologically. The flashback technique adds drama and mystery to the effect of the film.
Consider how the film maintains pace and viewer interest. The story does not, for instance, go into great detail about Edward Rochester begging Jane Eyre to stay with him. Due to the flashback technique, the audience knows the marriage is not going to work, rendering the amount of time devoted to this in the book superfluous in the film version.
Think about why certain elements of the book were excluded from the film. The notion that Edward Rochester will marry Blanche Ingram is in the book and the film. However, the scene in which Edward Rochester disguises himself as a female gypsy fortuneteller does not appear. Any attempt to recreate this scene on film would be difficult.
Analyze the ending of the story. The film ends similarly to the book. Jane Eyre returns to Edward Rochester and discovers he is blind after his home has been burned and his wife is dead. She marries him. However, in the book Edward Rochester regains sight in one eye. The film therefore ends on a slightly less optimistic note.