Quite possibly one of the best literary adaptations in recent years, the film has captured what I imagined when I read Charlotte Brontё’s classic novel. The film is so atmospheric and well-acted I have to call it one of the best films this year.
After fleeing Thornfield Hall, Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) is lost on the moors as the weather turns from brooding and foggy to full-on rainstorm. She stumbles to the door of a young clergyman named St John Rivers (Jamie Bell) who takes her in and with his sisters cares for Jane. While recovering Jane thinks back to the events that have lead her to St John’s house, her childhood with a cruel aunt (Sally Hawkins), her stay at a harsh school and her employment with the mysterious, cruel and cold Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender) which led to her current predicament.
It has been a long time since I read Jane Eyre but the book made a deep impact on me, not least the detailed descriptions and imagery. I have even read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys which tells the story of a young Rochester and Bertha Mason so when I say that it is a brilliant adaptation I like to think I know what I am talking about.
The story was adapted by Moira Buffini and the structure is excellent as the film compress the book by using flashback sequences as opposed to being linear. This version foregrounds the action happening in the inner-lives of the characters’ and the conversations and interactions. Things like Rochester’s dissolution is shown by Fassbender’s performance while his comment about Adèle’s mother is more fuel for the fire. The screen-play delights in weaving a world that is religious, spiritual and superstitious as much as gothic and has delicious period language.
These things are given the correct canvas because of the tenor of the film generated by Cary Joji Fukunaga’s direction. Grey, dull greens and blues, browns, frost scorched misty moors and gardens suffused with a spectral light are used for exteriors while the candlelight and gloom of the ancient old house is almost reminiscent of Barry Lyndon. The films visuals are spectacular, capturing the atmosphere of the time… Or what I imagined it to be when reading the book like Jane’s entry into Thornfield. The film is rather muted, underplaying the gothic horror and focussing on the heroine’s journey. As a result the performances are allowed to shine.
I knew Wasikowska was a good actress but Jane Eyre establishes her brilliance as she captures the character from the northern-accent to the look. She is intelligent and strong-willed, plain but beautiful and luminous. She is restrained but defiant and it is this intelligence and defiance that sizzles more than the romance in the film. It is most evident when she is in conversation with Rochester who Fassbender nails as a burnt-out, brooding and cynical handsome-devil with a dark secret.
As much as the film gets right it shied away from the ending that the original book has but I liked how it reminded me of the book by playing straight and honest, making the film world feel real.
Release date: September 2011
Running time: 120 mins.
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, Amelia Clarkson, Holiday Grainger, Tamzin Merchant, Sally Hawkins, Craig Reed, Imogen Poots, Valentina Cervi, Romy Settbon Moore