Paula’s Cinema Club asked the excellent question, if Turner Classic Movies is still around in 30 years, what movies will they be showing, and who will be the host? Here’s my answer…
The year is 2042. The scene is the TCM set. The host is Drew Barrymore, actor, director, producer, and member of the one of the greatest acting families in American history…
Barrymore: Hello everyone, and welcome to another installment of The Essentials. Tonight we’ve got an amazing picture for you Jane Eyre – the 2011 version that is. And here to talked about it is this month’s guest host, bestselling author William Chandler. Welcome.
Chandler: Thank you for having me.
Barrymore: I’m sure some people are asking what’s a novelist doing guest-hosting TCM’s The Essentials?
Chandler: [Laughs] That’s a good question.
Barrymore: Your novels have been described as cinematic.
Chandler: Yes, that’s true. And I take that as a compliment. I love movies and the language of film almost as much as the I love the written word. When I was growing up, TCM was always on. I think that’s all my parents ever watched.
Barrymore: Not coincidentally, all your picks this month are film adaptations of classic novels.
Barrymore: It’s a cliche that the book is always better than the movie. So that begs the question, why is Jane Eyre an essential film?
Chandler: I admit it. I just love a good Gothic story.
Barrymore: And you are known for your Gothic novels.
Chandler: True, and the novel Jane Eyre has been influential on my writing. Charlotte Bronte took a genre that was pretty tired and worn out, some might say dead, and used its DNA to write – what was at the time – a contemporary story. Which is what I try and do.
Barrymore: DNA? Bringing something back to life? Sounds like your pick for next week, Frankenstein.
Barrymore. But you haven’t answered my other question. Why is Jane Eyre, and this particular version of Jane Eyre an Essential. Are you telling me it’s better than the book?
Chandler: [Laughs] Um, actually, this might be one of the rare examples where the film version is better than the book. And by that I mean a better, or more compellingly told story. Frankly, I think the 2011 version of Jane Eyre is a mini-film school.
Barrymore: That’s a bold statement.
Chandler: Let’s start with the sheer visual beauty of it. It’s one of those movies everyone should see on the big screen.
Barrymore: I totally agree, and I think it’s crazy that the cinematographer Adriano Goldman didn’t at least get an nomination for an Oscar.
Chandler: Absolutely. And it’s not just beautiful static shots. The film incorporates many different techniques: Subjective camera angles, wide shots, close ups. The camera use conveys alienation, imprisonment, a metaphorical sense of lurking danger, and perhaps most importantly, they all contribute to this dream-like quality – and that dream-like quality is present in many of the best Gothic novels.
Barrymore: Even the screenplay adds to the dream-like quality by chopping up the narrative of the novel. Most of the film literally takes place in Jane’s head.
Chandler: Yes, it’s a brilliant use of flashbacks. A brilliant tutorial if you will. And the whole dream motif is capped–
Barrymore: Wait! I know what you’re going to say, and there might be some watching tonight who’ve never seen the movie. We’ll let them discover that part for themselves. But you’re right it is amazing. Now let’s talk about the actors. I thought there was an amazing chemistry between Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska.
Chandler: Absolutely. And going along with the film-school theme, the two really put on quite a clinic. What I mean is– It makes me think of this time when I was teaching English. I had this bright student, a gifted writer, who loved horror stories and movies. The bloodier the better. After the umpteenth zombie and dismembered body, I challenged him to write a horror story without one drop of blood. I wanted to show him that less is often more. This film is a beautiful example of this. The passion these characters have for each other is palpable, and one scene in particular I find highly charged.
Barrymore: The scene after Jane saves Rochester from the fire.
Chandler: Exactly. You don’t see a lot of skin, but the way Fassbender and Wasikowska look at each other, the way they hold each other’s hands, how they move closer together ever so slightly, it creates this beautiful and potent intimacy.
Barrymore: Those two did so much with a glance or a raised eyebrow.
Chandler: I know. Fassbender’s one of my favorite actors. He can convey such passion in such a naturalistic way. Unlike say – ah I know this might cause an angry mob to form outside the studio – unlike say Lawrence Olivier’s acting which I find a little stiff, or affected.
Barrymore: You’re thinking of his Heathcliff in the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights?
Chandler: Um yes, but I guess I feel that way about his acting generally.
Barrymore: [Laughs] Well ok then. I think I hear the mob forming already. So let’s start the film. From 2011, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, with cinematography by Adriano Goldman, and staring Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska…Jane Eyre.