Small, plain and poor, Jane Eyre comes to Thornfield Hall as governess to the young ward of Edward Rochester. Denied love all her life, Jane can't help but be attracted to the intelligent, vibrant, energetic Mr. Rochester, a man twice her age. But just when Mr. Rochester seems to be returning the attention, he invites the beautiful and wealthy Blanche Ingram and her party to stay at his estate. Meanwhile, the secret of Thornfield Hall could ruin all their chances for happiness. Written by
When the carriage takes Jane away from the George Inn towards Thornfield, it leaves only a single set of tracks - although it's going back up the same road it just came down. See more »
My name is Jane Eyre... I was born in 1820, a harsh time of change in England. Money and position seemed all that mattered. Charity was a cold and disagreeable word. Religion too often wore a mask of bigotry and cruelty. There was no proper place for the poor or the unfortunate. I had no father or mother, brother or sister. As a child I lived with my aunt, Mrs. Reed of Gateshead Hall. I do not remember that she ever spoke one kind word to me.
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I love unexpected surprises. I was expecting a dull, 19th Century affair. Instead, I got one of the biggest melodramatic potboilers of all time. It's passionate, pulling me along and hardly letting me catch my breath. It's powerful, and it's actually hugely entertaining. Joan Fontaine plays the title character. Treated like garbage her whole life (we follow a few of her childhood adventures), Jane finally ends up in a tolerable place, hired as a governess. Well, it might not be Heaven, but Thornfield is, if nothing else, an interesting place. A cute, little French girl (Margaret O'Brien); an overbearing master of the house (Orson Welles); creepy halls; unexplained fires and a frightening entity hiding behind a gothic wooden door, bolted tightly shut. Heck, this film is a good 60% horror film. 1943's best film, I Walked with a Zombie, is also based on the novel Jane Eyre. That film is pure poetry, but the 1944 version might actually be scarier! The black and white cinematography is awe-inspiring, some of the best ever captured. It can be very, very eerie. It's actually inspired - perhaps even pilfered - by Orson Welles' films to date. I wonder if he thought he was being ripped off? The acting is not perfect. Joan Fontaine, as a thousand other people have probably pointed out, is anything but plain, as the character is supposed to be (I've never read the novel - hell, I probably should now! - but her plainness is expressed in the film). It's also easy to point out that she wears one expression throughout the film. However, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. The backstory is so well done that that expression seems to fit the character quite well. Orson Welles either seems to be not in the mood to star in this film or he seems too eager to be superb. I can't decide, but the result is curious. I wouldn't call it a bad performance, certainly, but it is not especially satisfactory, either. Whatever other criticisms could be expressed, he certainly never comes off as actually experiencing these situations with true emotions, unlike Fontaine. Perhaps the best performance in the film comes from young Peggy Ann Garner, who plays Jane as a young girl. She's simply amazing. Elizabeth Taylor appears in a small, uncredited role. Wow, she's young. All in all, I really loved Jane Eyre. While I recognize its imperfections, I wouldn't be surprised if my cable box gets stuck on Turner Classic Movies the next time it airs. 9/10.
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