In this prequel to Jane Eyre, Edward Rochester finds himself in Jamaica looking to make his fortune. As the second son, the expectation is that his brother will inherit the family estate and so his future must lie elsewhere. He soon meets Antoinette Cosway and is offered a substantial dowry to marry her. Only after the wedding does he learn of her family history, including the madness that afflicted her mother. Their relationship in a constant downward spiral, he decides that they should return to England where he keeps her locked away in her room. Written by
I loved this place. I loved it with all my heart, and now you've made it a place I hate. I used to think if I lost everything I would still have this, but now I have nothing and I hate it like I hate you and I swear before I die I will show you just how much!
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Having always been an avid lover of Jane Eyre, picking it apart in Eng. Lit. A-level was a painful and disillusioning experience, as Charlotte Bronte's startling racism is exposed, and you realise just how annoying Jane really is. The BBC 1 adaptation of the book has helped restore my love of the story, but THIS drama was truly inspiring.
The doomed love affair was splendidly crafted. Edward Rochester, young, moody, disregarded by his family is coerced into marrying Antoinette Cosway-Mason, a beautiful, innocent girl of creole descent. After the initial passion, whispers of Antoinette's heritage, her promiscuity, and rumours of her mad murderous mother come to drive Rochester away from his wife. When he finds her beating a servant (who previously was abusing her mistress' non-white, non-black background), Rochester starts to believe in her hereditary madness, and becomes repulsed with the islands, their exotic honeymoon home and his ethnic wife. Rochester here seemed more moody than his older, chattering counterpart, but you have to remind yourself that this is the young man as he was, and it was refreshing to hear his perspective as well. 'Bertha's character by Rebecca Hall was sublime: shown with such sincerity, passion; complete, even down to the nuances of the regionally-indefinable accent. There are so many moving lines in this short drama. The scene where she yells 'My name is ANTOINETTE!' was gut-wrenching.
When Antoinette reveals her mother's true story, we believe the rift is healed, and trust restored. Yet the unwise use of a love potion convinces him again of her betrayal, and his lust and vengeance lead to a powerful scene where Antoinette slumps against the door of her bedroom wherein her husband is -literally- banging the maid.
Marvellous to watch, the loose camera-work and exotic locations bring together a flavour of mystery and mysticism, enhanced by the delicate melodies weaving in and out of the scenes, and the exotic, pulsating drum rhythms - I'd watch it again just to hear the soundtrack.
All in all, it ends in tragedy for both; she driven mad by hatred for him, and he overcome by regret when he realises that it was his fault. We know he cared about her - it was clear in Jane Eyre; yet here it seems that it was just not enough.
Mrs Rochester the First: in my opinion, infinitely better.
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