Rachel Coleman – Jane Eyre Remediation

The source text for my remediation is Bronte’s Jane Eyre, a novel we read for class. I chose the first paragraph of chapter XXV, which takes place the night before Jane’s planned wedding to Rochester. For my destination medium, I chose to turn this passage into a screenplay.

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“The month of courtship had wasted: its very last hours were being numbered. There was no putting off the day that advanced – the bridal day’ and all preparations for its arrival were complete. I, at least, had nothing more to do: there were my trunks, packed, locked, corded, ranged in a row along the wall of my little chamber; to-morrow, at this time, they would be far on their road to London: and so should I (D.V.) – or rather, not I, but one Jane Rochester, a person whom as yet I knew not. The cards of address alone remained to nail on: they lay, four little squares, in the drawer. Mr Rochester had himself written the direction, ‘Mrs Rochester, – Hotel, London,’ on each: I could not persuade myself to affix them, or to have them affixed. Mrs Rochester! She did not exist: she would not be born till to-morrow, some time after eight o’clock a.m.; and I would wait to be assured she had come into the world alive before I assigned to her all that property. It was enough that in yonder closet, opposite my dressing-table, garments said to be hers had already displaced my black stuff Lowood frock and straw bonnet: for not to me appertained that suit of wedding raiment; the pearl-coloured robe, the vapoury veil pendent from the usual portmanteau. I shut the closet to conceal the strange, wraith-like apparel it contained; which, at this evening hour – nine o’clock – gave out certainly a most ghostly shimmer through the shadow of my apartment. ‘I will leave you by yourself, white dream,’ I said. ‘I am feverish: I hear the wind blowing: I will go out of doors and feel it.’” (Bronte 317)

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INT. A BEDROOM – NIGHT

Pan slowly over a bedroom, silent and filled with packed trunks stacked neatly off to one side, zooming in briefly on the luggage. Pull out and pan around to a woman, JANE EYRE, standing at the front of a desk. She sighs.

JANE
How quickly the month of our courtship has passed. And now, in but a few hours. . .

She pulls opens a desk drawer. Zoom in on four small luggage tags which read simply, “Mrs. Rochester, – Hotel, London.” A crumpled note lies next to them: “Attach before sending out trunks. – your Rochester.” She slams the drawer back. As she turns to her closet – stuffed to the brim with rich garments, a wedding dress, and a single austere black dress squished into the corner with a straw hat – she sighs again.

JANE
(tracing her fingers over the black dress, barely audible)
Soon she shall live, this Jane Rochester – and I no more. But not tonight.

She stares at the white wedding dress for a moment before firmly closing the closet. The force of the slam causes the gauzy dress to flutter, catching the dim light and casting ghostly shadows on the walls.

Jane
(turning away from the closet and to a window)
I will leave you by yourself, white dream. I am feverish – I hear the wind blowing. I will go out of doors and feel it.

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Before I had even selected a scene, I knew I wanted to turn some part of Jane Eyre into a screenplay. We have already seen some adaptations of the ending of Bronte’s work in class – whether they were acceptable or not, I leave to the other viewers to decide – and this inspired me to try my hand at screenwriting. I have seen many, many film adaptations of novels that differed greatly from the original text, and I wanted to see if I could make as close to a word-for-word translation as possible. Of course, in the process of the remediation, I become a type of author, which necessarily injects my own interpretation of the scene and Bronte’s intentions into my final product, making it impossible to create a true, unbiased copy of the original text.

The first difficulty I faced was finding a passage that would work well for a screenplay remediation. So much of Jane Eyre is Jane’s own inner reflections, shared with the reader through first-person narrative, which can only be mimicked by voice-over in a film. In my experience, liberal use of voice-over (and, it would have to be liberal, considering the fact that the entire book is told from Jane’s perspective) tends to make the movie seem more like a film noir detective flick than a Victorian period piece. A passage with only back-and-forth dialogue, on the other hand, would likely have looked the same in a screenplay as it does in a novel. So, I set out to find a passage in which there was a mix of spoken words and physical movement and actions.

As I suspected, the biggest difference I noticed inherent to changing from the novel to a screenplay was the loss of the first-person narration. Without it, we lose insight into Jane’s own personal thoughts and reactions. To try to make up for this, I chose to include physical, outward signs of what the passage shows Jane is thinking and feeling. To try to capture a bit of the trepidation that Jane feels – which we can understand from, for example, her claim that “there was no putting off. . . the bridal day” – I had her sigh in the screenplay. This is a detail not included in the source text itself, but one that helps to capture the same sentiment without having a voice-over narrator telling the audience what Jane is feeling outright. Similarly, though there was only once instance of words spoken in this paragraph (at the very end), I turned some of Jane’s thoughts into words, such as the idea that her engagement month passed quickly.

However, I did find that, overall, it was fairly easy to turn this novel passage into a screenplay. Specifying how the camera is to pan around the packed trunks allowed me to mimic Jane’s description of her room on the eve of her wedding, without having to outright state what is present in the scene. Having Jane open and quickly shut the drawer in which the “Jane Rochester” luggage tags rest – though not in the novel, since Jane simply notes that she knows they are in there – shows to the audience both that the tags exist and that Jane is not happy about them. This camera-work aspect of film makes the scene more exciting than if Jane were to plainly say, for example, “I am getting married tomorrow, but I refuse to put the tags on the luggage because I am afraid of losing myself.” What the screenplay also allows for that the novel here does not is a separation between the experiences of the protagonist and the audience/viewer. While in Jane Eyre the reader is made to see the world through Jane’s eyes, with this screenplay, it is clear that the audience is outside of Jane – we pan around the room before coming to her, for instance. This could change how Jane’s story affects us as readers/viewers; outside of her mind, we become bystanders and simply watch as she undergoes her bildung.