Cary Fukunaga‘s Jane Eyre has been the subject of a review I’ve had laying around ever since I first watched it, nearly a year ago. For some obscure reason I haven’t been able to finish it yet, but from the moment I decided to create this blog feature, Film Aesthetics, I knew Jane Eyre would be the first entry. Wether gothic romances are your cup of tea or not, there is one thing we can all agree upon: the latest adaptation of Charlotte Brontë‘s most accomplished novel is breathtakingly gorgeous.
Most importantly, the way its aesthetic elements of light and color are manipulated reveals a sensitive insight into the novel’s atmosphere. Or rather atmospheres for Jane Eyre has many tones, and they’re constantly shifting: it is tender, sad, harsh, hopeful, mysterious, romantic, terrifying. And for each of the above Fukunaga and cinematographer Adriano Goldman found a visual representation: soft lights over pale colours provide a nostalgic and sad feeling which, when combined with a greener palette and touches of a light pink, shifts the mood into a dreamy romance; foggy blues create a ghostly atmosphere that enhances the mystery and supernatural elements of the story; and dark yellows enveloped in silent shadows trigger fears and embody the daring horror side of this nineteenth century novel.
Like the book itself, it is also highly symbolic: vast and barren landscapes express Jane’s own loneliness and desperation; shadowy figures of men (namely Rochester and St. John) suggest the danger or illness they’ll prove to be; constant shots of Jane looking out of closed windows as a metaphor for both her desire to break free and the inevitability of her fate; flowery gardens for brief moments of happiness – but even then the sun never shines too bright, for a silver aura covers the scene desaturating all colours and creating a heavenly, dream-like atmosphere that suggests it is nothing but an illusion.
Cary Fukunaga‘s take on Jane Eyre is one of the most comprehensive, clever and careful film adaptations so far, going the distance for details that only attentive readers of the novel could ever spot, and revealing a rare combination of good taste, talent, and the necessary sensitivity to bring such a story to life.
There’s a set of screenshots for each tone after the break: