Director: Cary Fukunaga
Writer: Moira Buffini
Based On: “Jane Eyre” By Charlotte Bronte
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench
Country: United Kingdom
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Time: 120 minutes
Genre: Romantic Drama
USA Release: 3/15/2011 (Limited)
On DVD (USA): 8/16/2011
Awards: 1 Academy Award Nomination, 1 BAFTA Award Nomination
Where do the wicked go after death? To Hell, which is a pit full of fire in case you forgot. Even at a young age Jane Eyre was treated like she should be punished and go to that world, but although she was treated that way she never used it as a crutch, instead hiding her past from everyone. This version of the popular novel by Charlotte Bronte, dives a bit darker into the world of Jane Eyre, which also makes it something of the 22nd version, showing how popular it is to use the material. Be that as it may, does this version live up to its predecessors or fall down into that pit full of fire? Let the lights go down and start the tragic story that is “Jane Eyre”…
“Jane Eyre” is a story about a girl whose whole life is filled with treachery and woe. After she sprints from the house she once lived and loved, she is now hiding out and recalling everything in her past that has lead to this moment. After her parents die, she is left in the care of her aunt, who finds her to be an awful child (although she is quite the opposite), sends her away to a school that treats her with the same coldness she has grown accustomed to. Years later she leaves the school having gotten a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall, caring for a young French girl named Adele Varens. After an incident involving a man on horseback, she returns to Thornfield only to realize that the man she helped was in fact Edward Rochester, the master of the house. Soon strange things begin to happen at the house including a fire, which make Jane and Edward’s bond grow stronger. As Jane meets some of Edward’s friends she is told by Alice Fairfax (the keeper of the house) that Edward is going to marry Blanche Ingram. But to Jane and everyone’s surprise he instead asks Jane for her hand in marriage, and with that the real mystery of the story begins.
To follow this gothic tale you need someone that will keep to the period while still making it feel the way it should, although I haven’t read the book at this point it seems to me that this version is faithful not only to other versions but to the source material as well, thanks in part to the great directing by Cary Fukunaga. He did a great job along with his cinematographer Adriano Goldman, whose use of natural light was great: it brought the scenes to another level because it showed the beauty in the light and the scariness in the darkness, showing us everything in its true form. What I really fell in love with was the use of candle light, which not only brought a really feel for the time period but also brought out more drama for the scenes, forcing you to look at the expressions on the faces, not just the words being said. Also nice was the use (not overuse) of steadycam or handheld, it gave me the impression that I was right there along with Jane. With Fukunaga directing and Goldman’s cinematography you really get to experience Jane’s nightmare. Although I didn’t focus on it the entire time the score for this film by Oscar winner Dario Marianelli was very good, fans of his work will not be disappointed – I enjoyed the string sections in early scenes. Like I said before, I have not read the book at this point so I am pretty oblivious to how the story goes, but even with that I can see that this is a very dark story and I can imagine that the story will plunge deeper than a movie can in 2 hours. But none the less I found the story to be extremely interesting, haunting and sad all at the same time. Although it may sound like a depressing tale, and at times it almost reaches that point but it never gets to the point of wondering why you paid to watch a depressing movie. Its just a very tragic story, but by the end and the lights come up you are far from feeling that.
But as far as performances go this was a fantastic cast to watch. Although the story mostly surrounds two characters I can’t forget some of the others. Jamie Bell, Judi Dench and Sally Hawkins all did a great job in their respected roles, although Bell and Hawkins roles were very minuscule they were still very powerful and important to the film. Hawkins shows a side I haven’t seen, with her devious and wicked performance. Jamie Bell was warm and generous but fierce when need be. While Judi Dench was kindhearted, motherly and protective of Jane’s well-being. One of the most surprising performances was that of young Jane played by Amelia Clarkson, who did a fantastic job especially for a relative newcomer. This was her first feature film and she matched the same intensity that Mia Wasikowska gave in her performance, I look forward to her future work. As for our two leads, Michael Fassbender gave a wonderful performance – he was haunting, and although at times he seemed easy to figure out but at the same time complex and mysterious. Like Jane says in the film “Everything seems unreal, you sir are the most phantom like of all.” To her this is like a dream within the nightmare she has lived in her whole life. As for Mia Wasikowska’s performance of Jane Eyre, she was superb, which is making some people say that “she delivers possibly the best portrayal of the title character ever” but seeing as I haven’t seen the other versions I can’t comment but I wouldn’t be surprised because she is a great actress and did an amazing job. Her character has gone through so much yet she never uses it as an excuse, she is strong but also very fragile at the same time. But after being with Edward nothing is the same, and not having him by her side is driving her to the brink of losing her mind, even though it seems to be a pattern for Edward. But in the case of Jane it probably is just the thought of never being with him again, because she loves him so much.
To sum up this has been an interesting ride of the gothic proportion, with outstanding performances by the entire cast. Mia Wasikowska is a great Jane and possible the best version yet. This has gotten me interested in looking back at past versions of Jane Eyre to compare it to this film and see if what all the critics are saying is true. It has also made me more excited to read the novel and fully get an idea of the story.