Film & Television

“Jane”: Beautiful Creatures

All this is seen through the eyes of a brilliant cinematographer, Hugo Baron van Lawick, who was sent by The National Geographic to film her. The camera loves her, and soon enough he does too, and he asks to marry her. Though he is an incessant smoker, and a human, Jane accepts, and so we also follow the progress of this family as it parallels that of the chimps. A son, Grub, is born, and he is raised in the midst of this jungle paradise alongside his chimp cousins.

It is thrilling to see Jane’s gentle nurturing of her beloved son mirror that of her subjects. The beauty of trusting instinct over convention comes shining through, as Jane, Hugo, and Grub live unfettered and unencumbered by the modern world.

Jane herself, though modest and self-effacing, is the star of the film. No fiction writer could have created a more perfect character to embody the role of a real-life Jane of the jungle. We see this tall, fresh-faced beauty roam day after day, wearing tan khakis and sneakers, her blond hair shimmering and her long lean legs tanned in the sun. Free of artifice, she seems entirely at ease with herself, and she recounts how her mother taught her self-respect and reliance and supported her endeavors, although at the time it was thought absurd for a woman to aspire to be a scientist.

We also come to know Jane as entirely devoted to her work. Though in Grub’s early years she stays right by his side, she never loses sight of how committed she is to the project. When Hugo loses his grant to film her and must move on to do films in the Serengeti, Jane chooses her own work over staying married. When she realizes that the chimps and their habitat are endangered, she becomes a world ambassador for them, traveling the globe to raise awareness of their plight.

A born feminist, Jane is not typical of her species, or at least not a typical woman of her time. Following her life and work is an instructive and illuminating look at what goes into being a powerful and self-confident woman. She is not daunted by convention, is unfazed by obstacles, and is true to herself above all. And so she has achieved amazing things and made groundbreaking discoveries. This film shines a spotlight on what it would be like if all women were raised and supported to fulfill their inner “Jane.” The human species might actually make something of itself.

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