THE FILM: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)
THE PAIRING: John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård) and Jane (Porter) Clayton (Margot Robbie)
THE MOMENT: The Reunion
This past week, I took advantage of the DVD release of The Legend of Tarzan, and bought a copy. As I hit the play button on my remote, I anticipated good things, but a sliver of doubt lingered. How would the script spin its wild hero, Tarzan? Would his wildness be a strength or barrier to character development? It was with this trepidation that I settled in to discover what was to come of this re-imagining.
Fortunately, this turned out to be one of the most memorable films I’ve seen in 2016! To be fair, I’ll confess part of its appeal is the beautiful romance. The Legend of Tarzan tells the story of Tarzan, who meets and falls in love with Jane Clayton, an American raised in the jungle where her father taught English. Eight years later, they’re living in England where John (Tarzan, though he goes by John) has assumed his rightful place as the sole heir to the family fortune, left to him by his father.
The love story of John and Jane Clayton is one of the sweetest to be immortalized on film in a while. As a result, their connection is strengthened by Jane’s understanding and acceptance of who her husband is rather than his legend, and his consuming love for this woman who saved him. In this way, the story can take on reflections of a Beauty and the Beast fable. A story that, happily, ends just as beautifully as Belle and her Prince’s does.
The Love Story of John and Jane Clayton (Spoilers)
When the dust settles, this script doesn’t exchange many sweet nothings between this couple. Yet their romance is based on emotion and mutual understanding of who the other person is. (An appropriate and fitting approach to this love story.) While John is torn between two places, the legacy his father left him and the place he once called home the Jungle, the one thing he is sure of is that his heart is Jane’s. It’s this that guides his every choice.
When John agrees to accept an invitation at the King’s request to tour Africa, Jane makes necessary preparations to accompany him. He discovers her in the room they share, where he finds her packing her trunks with great excitement. When her husband protests her coming with him because of the enemies awaiting him, Jane reminds him, “It’s my home too.”
With tenderness, he responds, “It’s not safe there.”
Understanding lining her voice and her face, she knows what he’s thinking of. “You can’t possibly still think there’s a danger, John,” she begins, “You haven’t spoken his name in years.” He remains silent as they stand close together but knowing her husband well, gently she urges him, “Talk to me.”
He tells her his enemy isn’t the concern. With affection shading his voice, he says, “You are.”
Upset at being shut out by her husband, the two part company with tempers raised.
Later, after their tempers have cooled, John finds Jane sitting in a tree on their estate. Wordlessly, he climbs the tree and sits across from her. Offering his hand, she takes it with her smaller hands. No words pass between them for a heartbeat. Finally, he says, more a statement than a question, and referring to their friends, “Promise me you’ll stay with the Kuba the whole time.”
Without saying anything, a small smile forms on her lips. With tears glistening she nods in agreement. His face, a frame of confliction and worry, turns up in a half-hearted smile. Their hands together, John gently pulls her into his lap and the pair shares a kiss in a beautiful albeit quiet scene symbolic of their love.
The Romantic Moment
Upon their arrival, Africa proves to be as dangerous as John feared. His mortal enemy hasn’t forgotten the pain John once caused him, and as a result, he hires a man to capture John. In his stead, the tracker kidnaps Jane forcing John to use his knowledge of the terrain to find Jane. No obstacle is too great as he seeks her out, going to great lengths to return to safety the woman he loves. Even at risk of his own life, John accomplishes this.
But once Jane is safe, John’s quest isn’t yet complete. He must stop the villain from his nefarious plot so that he will no longer hurt the native people of Africa. As Jane watches the destruction from a safe distance, she sees ships explode and she believes the worst. Fear affixed on her face, she anxiously searches for a sign John is alive or if he’s at the bottom of the ocean.
Motionless, she stands there. The emotions on her face suggest her world has stopped. She remains this way as her eyes search the horizon, the emotions on her face indicative of the worry she has about the fate of her husband. Is he alive? After what feels an eternity, Jane senses a presence. Closing her eyes in relief, without seeing his face she knows the truth. Her husband has found her again.
Touching her, he leans into her, his forehead touching her hair.
Turning around, their touch remaining intact, their lips find each other and they share a passionate kiss. Filled with longing, relief, and love, Jane’s hands find John’s face, and they hold tight to each other. The couple take a moment to breathe, to recognize this isn’t a mirage as they cling together, an embrace indicative of desperation between a husband and wife almost separated by death, but reunited by the strength of their love.
Have you seen this period drama or are you planning on seeing it? I’d love to know what you thought of John and Jane’s romance. For me, as a viewer, I was impressed for many reasons with this re-imagining. Not the least of which being the romance, which is easily the pin keeping this story whole. Sound off below with your thoughts, I’d love to read them.
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