Art History in Jane Eyre (2011)

To purchase this movie, click on the cover.

To read a public domain edition, click on this link.

I don’t think I need to recap Bronte’s tale, do I?

To start, I love the movie’s depiction of Thornfield Hall.  The set designers clearly wanted to create an ancient, oppressive, and dark atmosphere with the stone walls and thick, immense tapestries covering the interiors.  In fact, the estates’ lack of light holds down the characters, and symbolizes the awful secrets that chain the people living there.  When Bertha Mason burns down the Hall, she liberates everyone from those chains.

I also must write about the paintings featured prominently in the film.  Such as one (possibly of French Rococo origins) painting of a nude woman (possibly Venus) lying about with a Cupid character.  We see it two times in the film.  The first time when Jane moves in and the second time when she examines the painting.  As she inspects it, the camera moves up the female subject’s body.  I have not been able to identify this painting, so if anyone knows, please let me know in the comment section.

So why use the painting?  To call back the previous scene where Rochester implies that he will always satisfy his carnal desires?  To show Jane’s curiosity in an artwork that represents a world far beyond her innocent and cloistered life?  She said she had no idea what Rochester meant when he talked about lusting after a virgin.  Also, she’s an artist herself, so I imagine her comparing the painting to her own work.

The movie uses two other artworks that act as allegories on how Rochester treats Jane.  For example, when Eyre leaves the sitting room after listening to Blanche Ingram and others disparage governesses, Rochester follows her.  When he questions her escape attempt, behind him hangs a painting depicting a dog coming after a bird in flight.  The motif of comparing Jane to a bird shows up repeatedly in the film.

On the second piece of art.  In Rochester’s drawing-room, there hangs a tapestry bearing a similar design to The Unicorn Found from The Hunt of the Unicorn series.  Seriously, the tapestry in the film has the same fountain found in the example above this paragraph.  The work hangs behind Rochester while he compares Jane to otherworldly beings, aggressively inquires about her life, and vents his frustrations. In other words, both artworks symbolize Rochester’s treatment of Jane.

All in all, I enjoyed this film and picking out the visual hints in certain scenes.

ETA: Tweaked a sentence.

ETA: Tweaked a sentence.

ETA: These tweaks happened in August 2014.

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