Wide Sargasso Sea

I haven’t read Jean Rhys’s much-celebrated novel, a sort of postgothic Caribbean rumination on Jane Eyre set in Jamaica in the 1840s, but the best and worst thing to be said about this 1993 adaptation by John Duigan, the highly talented Australian writer-director of The Year My Voice Broke and Flirting, is that it never entirely transcends its literary origins to become something independent. It certainly looks sensual and feels tormented, both of which seem right, and the fiery colors in Geoff Burton’s cinematography are memorably vibrant, but the deadly specter of Masterpiece Theatre hovers over the proceedings, even with an NC-17 rating. A white West Indian sugar heiress (Karina Lombard) entering an arranged marriage falls in love with her English groom (Nathaniel Parker), whose name happens to be Edward Rochester; when he abandons her out of fear she turns to voodoo to win him back. Coscripted by Jan Sharp (the producer) and Carole Angier, and costarring Rachel Ward and Michael York. 100 min. (JR)

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