A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
In "Jane Eyre" can be found all of the elements of the modern Gothic romance novel, which fills paperback racks with countless versions of the same story. The covers give the game away: In the foreground, a wide- eyed heroine, hair flying, bodice torn, flees from a forbidding Gothic manor. In the manor, a light shines in one window, high in a tower. In the background, a dark, sinister man glowers enigmatically. Additional elements, such as horses, children, dogs, governesses, willow trees and tombstones, are optional.
What made "Jane Eyre" work so well as a novel by Charlotte Bronte, and in three previous film versions, is the classic purity of the two central characters. Jane (played here by Charlotte Gainsbourg) is plain, severe addressed in somber clothes, an unwanted orphan whose unhappy days at boarding school have been followed by employment at the forbidding Thornfield Hall. Ander. Rochester (William Hurt), the master of the hall, is tall, dark, handsome, glowering, deep-voiced and enigmatic. These two anchors -- the uncertain young girl and the distant, potentially threatening older man -- can be found in almost every Gothic story, and it doesn't take a Freud to plunder the subtext.
The new "Jane Eyre" has been directed and co-written by Franco Zeffirelli, the Italian director of films and opera who is drawn to English literature; he made the Taylor-Burton "Taming of the Shrew" in 1967, a classic” Romeo and Juliet" in 1968, and Mel Gibson's 1990 "Hamlet." The first two of those films were bursting with life and color, but "Hamlet" had a gloomier, damper texture, and with "Jane Eyre," Zeffirelli has banished brightness and created a cold, gray world where, as the dialogue has it, "The shadows are as important as the light."
This is the right approach. Jane Eyre's world must seem an ominous and forbidding place, charged with implied sexuality. In a sense, Jane’s environment is sexuality -- which surrounds her, misunderstood and unacknowledged.