Tuesday, June 7, 2011

For the love of Gothic!

(Quick note - several of you are waiting for an announcement. This is not that post. This is a cryptic and teaser-riddled note to indicate that there is announcement to come, but I am not ready for the reveal. This is a note to remind you that I am 32 - 77% evil on any given day.)

In the past week, I have gone to see the recent Jane Eyre movie twice. I don't remember the last movie I saw twice in the theatre. It really is that good and if you haven't already gone, I recommend you find it and drive great distances to see it.

Jane Eyre is one of the few gothic novels I haven't actually read. This is a rather blatant and embarrassing hole in my gothic education, but I've always avoided it because one of the previous film adaptations made me shudder in the bad way. This is a Very Bad Reason to avoid a book, I know, but for some reason, it left me with a sense of over-whelming helplessness and women submitting to bad men because they had no other choices.

I'm going to back track to remind you that I *love* (love, love, love) gothic novels. I found them during my undergraduate years, when I was living in England and discovering that the North is just as dreary and weather-worn as Washington state, but in a more quiet way. I started (as so many of us gothic lovers do) with Horace Walppole's The Castle of Otranto and moved quickly onto the work of Anne Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, Mary Shelley, John Poliodori. By the time I was through, Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey had me laughing out loud.

This addiction carried through to my graduate years. I wrote my MA thesis on the use of gothic conventions in contemporary women's fiction and gave myself an excuse to read a lot of fiction in the course of getting a degree.

But there was no Jane Eyre. There will be now, because if this movie is any indication, I have short-changed myself and this book because ho-leeeeee cowbells. How many things are there to love about this movie? Too many. But I'm going to give you my top three.

1 - It's all so clear! It's in the atmosphere!
Moors! Distant horizons! Castles! Storms! Darkness and light! Fire and night! Secret rooms! Every scene is framed to communicate something about Jane's interior process. If she feels lost and small and hurt and alone, the landscape is unending and wild and ignorant of her presence. If she feels hopeful or happy, the scenes are closer, warmer, intimate.

2 - Not just natural, but SUPERnatural.
This was subtle, but pervasive. A constant undercurrent through Jane's life. Spirits! Ghosts! Connections that cross the moors! I loved this. It's not always so subtle in gothic novels (helloooooo, Castle of Otranto!), but this was just this quiet piece of tension tucked into the darkest corners of Jane's life.

3 - O.M.G. Rochester. O.M.G.
Let's just all agree that Michael Fassbender is beyond brilliant and leave it at that. My point about Mr. Rochester isn't really about Michael, but about how the film showed us how gothic HIS existence is, how entrapped HE is, how he finds his only option is to try and live two separate lives, how one of those lives is being buried alive by circumstances beyond his control. Oh! But this is so beautifully done. It might actually be my favorite thing about this film.

So, now that I've made myself all swoony again, I'm just going to leave it at this - SEE THIS FILM. Now, excuse me, while I go read this book.

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