"The Book of Jane": Film Review
27 July 2014. Reviewed by Celeste Gurevich
For: The International Journal of Gender, Nature, and Transformation

Luna Olcott as "Jane" in THE BOOK OF JANE

Finding Our Way Back to the Sacred Feminine through Cinema

The Book of Jane (2013; 120 min. USA) , the latest film from experimental filmmaker Antero Alli, is a journey into some of the deepest mysteries of human existence: loneliness, death, lost and created mythologies, and how tragedy can become a doorway to the Divine Mysteries if you embrace the opportunity for personal transformation. Shot in the Bay Area with an all-local cast and released in 2013, the director uses a wide range of techniques to play with the viewers’ sense of reality, from crisp, handheld footage to dream sequences drenched in magical realism. Although born in Finland, Alli has been centered in Berkeley, California for over 20 years. ‘The Book of Jane’ is his 11th full-length film. His many years of experience in underground cinema bring a maturity and strengthening of vision to this latest creation. Alli has explored the esoteric space of psychic transition in his other films such as Under a Shipwrecked Moon (2003), The Invisible Forest (2008) and The Greater Circulation (2005), but none of his previous work addresses the chaos, fluidity and power of the sacred feminine in the same spirit as The Book of Jane.

The movie opens with an overview of an idyllic Southern California town, on a calm, sunny day. In the stillness, a raven’s call echoes. The scene shifts to the local university campus, students here and there on the paths. A lone woman wanders slowly, head shaved, all in black, with a beat-up doll in a red cape hanging from her backpack. She pokes erratically at the ground with a walking stick, and seems to be mentally disturbed, but has an eerie calm and grace to her movements. A voiceover begins, and it is the woman’s voice. World-weary, and aptly named ‘Jane’, she begins to tell her tale, and we quickly realize that there is more to this woman than meets the eye.


Madeline H.D. Brown as "Colette" and Marianne Shine as "Alice"

During her daily walk around campus, Jane meets Alice, a Comparative Religions professor. Standoffish, she reluctantly speaks with Jane, who asks her highly intelligent questions. This fires Alice’s curiosity and challenges her assumptions that Jane is just another “crazy” homeless person. She begins to seek Jane’s company and conversation on her way to and from her classes, and tells her lover, Colette, who explores feminine archetypes in her artwork, about Jane and her deep knowledge of Alice’s course of study. Colette is as fascinated as Alice, and their decision to further the friendship with Jane takes them on a ride into chaos they never could have predicted, with a shocking secret hidden in Jane’s past that forever alters the course of Alice’s life.

As a director, Alli holds up a magnifying glass to what makes us uncomfortable, to our prejudices and assumptions: to the sad state of our disconnection to Mother Earth. To what is just beneath our thin veneer of reality, before taking us into the depths of our own psyches. Antero Alli is a rare bird in the film world: a male artist who creates fierce, articulate, authentically complex female characters and places them in a story centered around the history and mythology of the Goddess—through them speaking the revolutionary truth that we are a human family. As in the old adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, in Jane, he teaches us how to heal and reshape what is left of ourselves after being burned by Kali’s cleansing fire. With Alice, we are reminded about the importance of not just thinking—but doing—in moving intellectual theory into the experiential realm. The Book of Jane is a piece of cinema that will resonate on many levels long after the closing credits fade to black. We have much to learn from this master storyteller, if only we are brave enough to embrace and celebrate the chaos and mystery within ourselves.


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THE BOOK OF JANE (main page)
Crew, Filmmaker, DVD and Soundtrack