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Reviewed in the United States on September 10, 2018
I watched this film in a movie theater in NYC when it was released. Loved it so, I bought it on VHS. When I bought the NC17 on DVD, the disc would not play on my regionless Pioneer! It plays on my new DVR player Amazon just delivered. It is great to be able to watch the NC17 version.
I heard this was racy. Maybe for its time, but it's pretty tame now.
I wanted to see the backstory to Mr. Rochester and his wife. This was really a disappointment. It doesn't really explain the disparity between the character in this movie and the character in Jane Eyre. I really wanted to love this.
Reviewed in the United States on December 21, 2018
If I wasn't curious about supposed background for Jane Eyre, this wouldn't have been very interesting. Kind of like what the book "Healthcliff" was to Wuthering Heights, or the books "Scarlett" and "Rhett Butler's People" were to GWTW. None of them as good as original story, but interesting spin-offs.
I'm a great fan of _Jane Eyre_ but have not read _Wide SargassoSea_, though reviewers of the film say the book is better.
This could have been an excellent character film, showing how Rochester exaggerated his relationship with his wife "Bertha" to Jane. Was Mason the brother-in-law mad, and passing a hereditary madness on to "Bertha"? No, he and his brother (the one who married Antoinette/Bertha's widowed mother) were not only not even her biological relatives, they were merely dips. Was Antoinette's mother mad? According to Antoinette's account, merely grief-stricken, alcoholic, sexy, and socially inconvenient--hence, locked up by the men who had legal power over her. And why should Rochester believe the statements of Daniel the half-brother? First, Daniel is an extortionist. Second, his revelation that Antoinette's father had affairs with his slaves is deeply shocking to Rochester, who somehow blames it on Antoinette. While I'm not condoning it, many other slaveowners did the same, so it would hardly have shocked a period Jamaican. Rochester, in fact, consistently refuses to accept Jamaica--he's constantly complaining about the climate, doesn't understand the racial tensions, and so on.
Still, Rochester's character could have been developed more deeply. As for Antoinette, she's merely a one-dimensional "child of nature," devoted to long sleeps, sex, and an enjoyment of the sultry climate. Given that after her parents' death she seems to have been brought up in a Catholic boarding school, she should display more in the way of education, social graces, and well, character. A more rounded character would make Antoinette far more sympathetic. As it is, the viewer is tempted to side with Rochester in wanting a wife who is interested in more than sex.
And one thing that would have been far more powerful, is establishing Antoinette as locked up by Rochester merely as an inconvenience, an alcoholic wife who doesn't understand British culture. One scene with Rochester urging/paying a doctor to certify Antoinette as mad no matter what, would have done this beautifully.
Other than that, although Nathaniel Parker doesn't look bad in the nude, Antoinette is too scrawny (and seems unable to do anything with her hair other than a modern pageboy style, for in bed or out of it). In summary, the film would be far better with more emphasis on character and less on sex. I will say that the actors doing Afro-Haitian dance actually do it well, unlike the ludicrously stiff and unpractised attempts at walzing done by the actors playing British characters. Also, the scenery is gorgeous.