Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Are Jane Eyre and Red Riding Hood meant to be silver screen sisters in arms?
At first glance,it may seem like the release of a new version of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and the latest twist on the Grimm Brothers classic fairy tale Red Riding Hood into theaters this upcoming weekend is a mere movie coincidence.
However,if you compare and contrast both trailers,there does appear to be a connection between these films that,perhaps unknowingly,each studio decided to play up.
Let's start with Jane Eyre-while this time honored tale of the tormented love between a much put upon governess(played by Mia Wasikowska) and her secretive stern employer(Michael Fassbinder) makes no bones about it's gothic nature,it is also a romance but a newcomer to this story would be hard pressed to feel that way here.
The sense of menace is rather strong,with various clips of Jane fleeing to and from the wilderness, harsh treatment at the hands of authority figures,the excessive glowering from Rochester and multiple images of fire. While most of that is part and parcel of the Bronte novel,the romantic elements of the book appear to have vanished into the mist. Even the 1996 feature film version threw in a hint of a love story but this new take on Eyre feels more like a Victorian era horror show:
As we look at the full length trailer for Red Riding Hood,which is intended to be a horror film,connecting the dots between these two seems like child's play.
The leading lady of this movie(Amanda Seyfried)has been made older in order to have a love triangle that has her wanting to run away with the local woodcutter than surrender to an arranged marriage. This concept is not entirely new but does link up well to Jane Eyre's mixed emotions about hitching her star to Rochester's wagon.
Again,scenes of our heroine on the run in the woods is natural and expected but the arrival of an authority figure(Gary Oldman)who interrogates the whole village about the werewolf attacks and major use of fire is not. While you do have to raise the stakes for a more mature version of a legendary folk tale for children,one does have to wonder why the fear factor is being heightened in such a way that insists upon the helplessness of the title damsel in distress:
In the case of Red Riding Hood,many of the re-imagined versions of the story have the girl in question taking on the Big Bad Wolf and overpowering him with or without assistance from anyone else. Even small screen nods to RRH,such as vampire slayer Buffy dressing up as Red one Halloween yet loading her basket with weapons instead of goodies,tend to tilt in that direction.
Granted,I haven't seen the new RRH film yet so it may follow in the fierce feminine footsteps of such films as Hard Candy and Freeway but based on the ad campaign so far,it's hard to tell which path this movie is planning on walking down.
Bait and switch is a major theme of the Red Riding Hood tale after all and maybe being more subtle about it's end game is what the filmmakers,including Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke,are going for:
I also haven't seen the new Jane Eyre film but in some ways,having the tension racketed up in the new trailer seems fitting. Many find Jane's love for Rochester to be a truly contrary to her rebellious nature character development(to my mind,it's not as twisted as the whole Cathy/Heathcliff deal in Wuthering Heights)while others insist that Jane and Rochester are as meant for each other as say Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
Yet,watching the trailer for this new adaptation of Bronte's best known work does seem like a darker version of the story which is already pretty grim in places to begin with. The fire images in both trailers are particularly significant,since it has plenty of meaning in Jane Eyre yet doesn't at all in Red Riding Hood.
Yet flames are featured prominently in both,suggesting the undertones of burning passion in both main characters. These films were made by separate parties but it's interesting to wonder about just how deliberate using this classic motif was in each production:
Perhaps this is just idle speculation on my part,over thinking these advertisements meant only to catch the eye enough to lure folks to the multiplex on opening day.
However,I can't help but wonder if this trend towards remaking classic stories,especially fairy tales, is simply the easiest bandwagon for filmmakers to jump on or a way to revive nostalgia for feminine stereotypes.
If you think about it,do we really need three new versions of Snow White at the same time(which is happening in Hollywood as we speak)or a teenage take on Beauty and the Beast where the gruesome guy looks as scary as a Hot Topic discount display?
Maybe it's really all about the money yet reading between the lines of what these tales are saying to people about how women should act shouldn't be totally set aside. Keep your eyes open and a gain of salt firmly on hand,folks and not just for your popcorn:
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