Jane Eyre and the cultural divide between the English and the French


Jane Eyre is not funny. During most of the movie, I was fraught with emotion as I watched the tormented love story between the poor governess and the brooding Mr. Rochester unfold. Yet there were a couple of scenes that provided moments of pure comedic relief for the French audience in Paris last night. The first was when Mr. Rochester's coquettish charge sings a French tune for Jane and Mrs. Fairfax, played by the indomitable Judi Dench. When Adele innocently mimics her mother's gestures, which were far more appropriate for a dance hall performer than a young girl with curls, Mrs. Fairfax dryly proclaims, "How very French". This one sentence, uttered in true Judi Dench style, exemplifies the vast distance that separates the cultures of the two countries. And the French audience loved it!

The second scene occurred shortly thereafter when Adele again mimics her French mother's feminine wiles as she thanks Mr. Rochester for a frock bedecked with ribbons and bows. When Adele asks if she has correctly expressed her gratitude, Rochester assures her that she acted just like all of the grown-up French women who charm English money out of Englishmen's pockets. Was the Parisian audience insulted by this slight on their national character? Apparently, not in the least because they all laughed appreciatively.

On Thursday morning, I'm going to cross the great divide and travel to the land of afternoon tea, the Queen and self discipline. Judi Dench's comment in Jane Eyre made me realize that I should probably leave my bright tangerine blazer in Paris and pack clothes that are more appropriate for the cold and windy moors of Derbyshire. If I owned a period dress, I would be tempted to wear it when we visit Haddon Hall, the old English manor house that played the part of Thornfield Hall in the movie. After I was able to book their special "Jane Eyre - Behind the Scenes" tour for Saturday, Stéphane and I decided to make an impromptu trip to the cinema last night to prepare for our visit.

We'll be staying in Buxton on Thursday and Friday and the village of Alstonefield in the Peak District National Park on Saturday and Sunday. Our accommodations and some of our dinners are booked. Now, I just need to find a place for afternoon tea in Buxton. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!

Comments

  1. Have a great trip...will you see Denise? Most important, try to get the inside scoop on the new season of Downton Abbey !! I saw a T shirt the other day that said "Free Bates" and I laughed aloud.

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    1. Oh, I would love to have a "Free Bates" shirt to wear while I'm in England. Did you get a photo? Stephane would agree about trying to get the inside scoop on Downton Abby. He's still proud that he was the first person in our family to know that Maggie Smith had asked to be written out of the series during season 3.

      No, sorry to say that I won't see Denise. I only decided to go to the UK at the last minute when Stephane invited me along on a business trip.

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  2. I loved this movie. Fassbender was spellbinding as was the lady who played Jane (I think she's an Aussie). And it's always nice when people can laugh at themselves a little bit, right?

    Have a wonderful time in Derbyshire. I've not really spent time in that area, so I'll be most interested to see your photos.

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    1. What was the reaction (if any) to Judy Dench's line when you saw the movie, Joseph? I also wonder about the audience's response in England. As you said, the French had no problem laughing at themselves.

      The casting was excellent, although I found myself thinking a couple of times that Fassbender was almost too handsome for the part. According to a video clip that I saw, that's what some of the people who work at Haddon Hall felt about Mia Wasikowska. They thought that she was too pretty to play Jane even after they saw her in makeup. However, they said that as soon as they saw her on film that they knew that the director had made the right decision.

      Stephane, Philippe and I were in Derbyshire about 6 years ago (wow, already!) and I'm really looking forward to this return visit.

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  3. I love Jane Eyre! I know it's not really necessary to have a new adaptation every few years, but I don't mind. I'll keep watching 'em as long as they keep making 'em.

    I agree that Fassbender and Wasikowka are too good-looking to match the novel's physical description of their characters. I liked their performances and I'm glad they were cast, but I just wish the screenwriter had excised those lines that mention their supposed homeliness. I mean, come on, I'm not blind!

    That's so cool you're doing a Jane Eyre tour. Looking forward to hearing about it.

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  4. I'm reading Jane Eyre now. I have fallen in love with the story and all of the culture that's embedded in it. I had no idea you could even do a Jane Eyre tour, but when I finally make it to Europe, I will be sure to do it as well!

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  5. Greetings France from the Amish community of Lebanon,pa. Richard

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  6. Oh well, being English, I don't get the joke either!

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend. I suppose Derbyshire is similar to Yorkshire, with windswept moors, spa towns and Victorian stone buildings and all, for a true Jayne Ayre type visit.

    Hope the weather is good, I think you will need a raincoat for those bracing walks on the moors.

    Sorry I can't help with afternoon tea recomendation. I had an excellent lunch in the old hotel just near the Pavillion but can't remember the name.

    Bon Voyage
    Denise

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  7. I saw Jane Eyre on a plane back in January and really liked it. I never actually read the book but wish I would have. At least something made the French giggle!!

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  8. I love all the Bronte's books and Jane Eyre in particular. I'll have to go and see this film. Enjoy your stay in England.

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