Monday, February 9, 2009

JANE EYRE (Robert Stevenson, 1944, USA) Jane Eyre removes the poisoned thorn from the heart of Edward Rochester, her integrity never sacrificed for cruel vice or emotional spontaneity: she remains true and honest to herself. She is born into an uncharitable time of religious fascism, greed, bigotry, and cruelty: she could have been born in the 21st century. Jane survives her brutal childhood at Lowood School, miraculously spiritually intact under the dominion of Mr. Brocklehurst, her spirit uncorrupted by his hypocrisy and zealous neglect. She comes to stalk the lonely corridors of Thornfield Manor, a governess to the precious Adèle, a humble but forgotten child in whom Jane sees her own lonely soul reflected in those tiny lovely eyes. But love and mystery also walk the corridors of the Manor and, like Hill House; whatever walks there walks alone. Director Robert Stevenson films Brontë’s masterpiece with a brooding sense of mystery and gothic romance, the moors shrouded by ghostly mist, an otherworldly boundary that separates two disparate worlds. Orson Welles as Rochester dominates every scene, his commanding voice and presence consuming the audience, as the other characters shrink from him into the cold mist…all except Jane. Joan Fontaine endows her character with a solid individuality like a velvet fist, clenched against the world’s injustices, but soft and warm to the touch. Her expressive eyes and plain beauty seem to intimidate Rochester, and her timing with Welles is impeccable; every word and subtle gesture mirrored perfectly, never allowing herself to be conquered by his baronial performance. Stevenson films in the soft candlelight glow of creeping horror, and the eerie mocking laughter that echoes the stately halls is chilling. He paces the film to perfection as the narrative races towards its fiery doomsday. Bernard Herrmann’s tempestuous score is one of his best, evoking subtle unspoken emotions, inscrutable mysteries, and a grand flourish that overcomes the audience as Rochester’s crippled body is finally embraced by Jane’s true love. (A)