“Sin Nombre” director Cary Fukunaga is in “advanced negotiations” to direct a new “Jane Eyre,” according to Variety. Which makes perfect sense, since there’ve only been 15 previous film adaptations and near as many TV versions, in addition to all of the ballets, musicals and operas. And it’s been three whole years since the BBC last “Eyre”d itself. And why not have a guy who directed a gritty border-crossing drama take a whack at it?
What is the enduring cinematic appeal of “Jane Eyre”? Why are we destined to see a new version at least twice a decade? Why is Charlotte Brontë’s book — full of emotional abuse, death and unsatisfactory marriages — outpacing, movie-wise, the combined works of Jane Austen, whose novels can at least can be translated into something resembling a conventional romance with a straight face?
Variety notes that this upcoming version “will play up the gothic elements.” Unfortunately, I don’t think this means more eyeliner or going “Saw”-style, with Mr. Rochester torturing the madwoman in the attic with elaborate implements. If gothic is really what the people want, allow me to reach back into my English major past and make the case for Horace Walpole’s 1764 “The Castle of Otranto,” which begins with a 15-year-old getting crushed to death by a gigantic helmet that comes out of nowhere and his father’s increasingly maniacal and deranged attempts to get the bride to marry him instead.
It’s at least twice as entertaining as “Eyre” and four times as deranged, but the big plus is that “Otranto”‘s never been filmed (except as the soon departed-from basis for a Jan Švankmajer short). Anything to avoid breaking out the bonnet again.
[Photo: fresh-faced Charlotte Gainsbourg as “Jane Eyre,” Miramax, 1996. Way before “Antichrist.” Just imagine.]