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Jane Eyre redux

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  March 18, 2011

You are the plainest Jane Eyre I have ever seen on screen. But you're not plain at all in real life. How did you manage that.

Wasikowska: The reality of the situation is that Jane wouldn't have had access to make-up. And she had to wear her hair in a particular way, and there just wasn't realistically any reason why she would have had make-up.

That didn't stop your Jane Eyre predecessors from looking made-up.

Wasikowska: Well, I got no-make-up make-up. I love make-up that changes your appearance in ways so people don't go, "Oh, she's wearing eyeliner!"

Fukunaga: Daniel Phillips [Jane Eyre's make-up and hair designer] and I had a lot of conversations about the hair and the style of hair. We had to pick a time period to set the film in, along with the production designer and the costume designer, and we picked 1843. Which would have been about five years after Brontë really wanted to set the story, or four years, because the book was written in 1847, and it seems like it takes place 10 years before. Except that the clothing style of the '30s was just awful. Every woman looked like a wedding cake. I was not interested in doing that. There were a few characters that had that, in the sense that by 1843 not everyone had updated their style. But since Jane would have been making her own dresses, and her school, I felt she could have kept it somewhat contemporary.

Likewise for the hairstyles, we were looking for - oftentimes they were very tight to the head? We loosened it just ever so slightly? Sometimes people loosen it lot more because it's actually more pleasing, but in this case we didn't necessarily want it to be more pleasing, so we kept it down, sort of mousy, looped under the ear. There was one time when we gave her sort of ornate hair, and that was for the wedding. So that's the hair she had when she escaped. It's a bit more romantic. So that was a choice as well.

I was struck by the absence of artificial light at Thornfield. How did you manage that?

Fukunaga: We did use artificial light, but it was all very minimal, obviously, we were shooting at a very low f-stop. When you shoot anamorphic, and oftentimes period and epic films are shot anamorphic, you get a beautiful separation, because you can shoot what you want to focus on and everything else goes out of focus. We shot spherical, and in order to achieve a similar play with the focus, we wanted to shoot fairly open, so we shot at f/1.4 almost all the time, even during daylight, and it creates a very interesting effect. So, that's what we were doing, like using candlelight and pushing the stops.

Thornfield is also very stony and gritty, even for a period Yorkshire-set film.

Fukunaga: I think it was kind of a trend in some period films to apply sort of a contemporary camera? Like The Libertine and Restoration are sort like a shaky, documentary approach to period? That's not what I wanted to do at all. In a way, it becomes harder to absorb the world when you're always hand-held and tight on people and there's this weird, almost Private Ryan–like approach to the cinematography. We just kind of let the camera sit there and observe, the way Jane was observing, or us as the audience being with them, Rochester, for example, and Jane by the fireplace. And there's a patience to the editing that allows you to take in more, and maybe that helps translate the grit.

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  Topics: Features , Television, Jane Austen, literature,  More more >
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