March 20, 2011
The new production of Jane Eyre is beautifully done, with some fine acting and a significant absence of melodrama. The director, Cary Fukunaga, has captured a dark and terrifying world with almost Turner-esque attention to light. If the world needed another movie of this story, then this one is a worthy addition. The atmosphere of the whole film is conducive to secrets: first Rochester’s and then Jane’s own hiding of her true identity in the home of St. John Rivers. Secrets eat away at the hearts of all those involved and have an insidious and destructive power.
Tatiana de Rosnay who wrote Sarah’s Key has another novel called A Secret Kept (New York, 2009). It is the story of a brother and sister in their forties discovering a secret about their mother and her early death that changed everything in their family dynamics. This secret led to their relationships being significantly impaired, as secrets are wont to do.
Secrets are rarely, if ever, kept secret. In the old television comedies called Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister the character of a senior civil servant in England is called Sir Humphrey Appleby. He has many stock phrases and aphorisms. One of my favorites is: “He that hath a secret to keep, must generally keep it a secret that a secret he hath to keep.”
We keep secrets for any number of reasons including some perverse idea that secrets give us power (hence part of the appeal of modern Gnostic movements such as the Knights of Columbus or Freemasonry) or from some kind of shame and the fear of being discovered. Most of the time we find that secrets, in the light of day, lose their power and lose their appeal. Perhaps that is the real and life-changing power of twelve step groups and also the power of confession and absolution. A secret brought into the open loses its power. So it was, in the end, for Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. And so it was for the Rey family of A Secret Kept.