JANE: The Most Enthralling Account Of Jane Goodall’s Life
The skillful assembly of wondrous never-before-seen footage makes Jane the definitive tribute to the icon’s life and work.
Unless you live in a rainforest, you’ve probably heard of Jane Goodall, the world’s leading primatologist. Actually, even if you live in a rainforest, you probably will have heard of Jane Goodall. Her groundbreaking work in, as she describes, “the magic world no human had ever explored before, the world of wild chimpanzees”, is depicted in Brett Morgen’s beautiful documentary Jane.
Jane is about the primatologist’s life in the ’60s and ’70s, formative years for both her personal and professional life, with the depiction of her famous study of chimpanzee life in the Gombe Stream National Park, her relationship with wildlife photographer Hugo Van Lawick, and the birth of her son. It was a time when no human had ever established such a bond with the chimpanzees, so she had no studies or people for reference in the field and she had no scientific degree or training herself, which makes her story even more extraordinary.
The right director to do the story justice
I was familiar with Jane Goodall’s relationship with the chimpanzees but didn’t expect to be so moved by watching how it was formed. I credit this to two things – the persona of Jane herself, who was picked by her senior Dr. Leakey to undertake the journey not because of qualifications or experience (since she had none) but because she had “an open mind for knowledge, a love for animals, and monumental patience”, and director Brett Morgen’s aesthetically and emotionally engaging storytelling.
Brett Morgen is a filmmaker whose name warrants an instant cinema ticket purchase. He’s established himself as one of the leading cinematic biographers with his stylistically varied oeuvre that includes Cobain: Montage of Heck and The Kid Stays in the Picture. He picks fascinating lives to document but more importantly, he documents them in fascinating ways. This time he’s taken on a life story that isn’t fresh to an audio-visual exploration, but has fresh audio and visuals.
The story as you’ve never seen it
Jane is largely constructed using over 100 hours of gorgeous never-before-seen footage of Jane Goodall shot in Gombe by Van Lawick, which was thought to have been lost until its discovery in 2014. The sumptuous colours of the wild that could only ever be captured on 16mm film are a feast for the eyes.
Morgen and his editors condense the rich amount to a potent 90 minutes of storytelling where not a single scene is extraneous. Lawick is a virtually a co-director of this film with his conscious, constant filming of Jane – he recognizes that Jane is just as much of a person of interest as the chimpanzees themselves, so we observe her observing them. Morgen also perceptively draws parallels between Jane’s relationship with her open-minded mother and her maternal bond with the chimpanzees.
Jane provides an inner monologue of all throughout the film, which also features her talking head for Morgen’s questions that require a retrospective point of view. Her platinum larynx impeccably delivers narration that perfectly accompanies her unique experience.
Philip Glass’ latest symphony
The great Philip Glass provides a score that’s as appropriately epic as Jane’s discoveries. The majestic sight, sound and ambition of the adventure are all perfectly in sync with each other. The combination of her story with these cinematic elements almost give it a fictional quality, bringing to one’s mind grand expedition stories such as Aguirre, the Wrath of God and the novels of Tarzan (which Jane cites as an inspiration).
Other audio-visual biographies of her life already exist but the skillful assembly of wondrous never-before-seen footage and a rousing Philip Glass score make Jane the definitive tribute to the icon’s life and work.
What did you think of Jane? Whose life would you like to see next documented by Brett Morgen? Tell us in the comments.
Jane doesn’t have a UK release date yet and currently has a limited release in US cinemas. For info on other countries’ release dates, click here and for info on specific dates for screenings in specific US and Canadian cities, click here.
“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.