Based the book by Charlotte Bronte.
Version: 2011, starring Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench
Genre: classic, romance, drama
Plot Summary: [from IMBd.com] “After a bleak childhood, Jane Eyre goes out into the world to become a governess. As she lives happily in her new position at Thornfield Hall, she meets the dark, cold, and abrupt master of the house, Mr. Rochester. Jane and her employer grow close in friendship and she soon finds herself falling in love with him. Happiness seems to have found Jane at last, but could Mr. Rochester’s terrible secret be about to destroy it forever?”
My Review: I stayed away from this film adaptation of Jane Eyre because I am quite partial to the BBC version. “Nobody can make Jane Eyre into a satisfactory 2 hr. movie!” I said, and consequently would not watch it. But somebody lately suggested it to me, and I decided I’d try it, seeing as how I liked Mia Wasikowska in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
I have now seen four versions of this classic thriller. And how can I say this? I was impressed. It had it’s pros and cons, but the cinematography was wonderful. A lot of thought and detail went into this, you could tell. All the props, setting, colors, and light used came together to create an atmosphere that seemed to leap off the pages of the novel. A word about the lighting used: I loved the fact that they used much firelight and candlelight to their advantage on set. It created wonderful shadows and a warming quality illustrating the warmth Jane was able to find in an otherwise dreary setting.
In most versions of this story, I get the feeling they try to hide the fact that there is a considerable age difference between Jane and Rochester (usually in making Jane a little older). In the book, Jane is supposed to be a mature 18-year old; Rochester is around 38. In this latest film adaptation, the characters seem to be the ages they should in the book, so I felt it was truer to the original story in that sense. Wasikowska and Fassbender actually look like they’ve stepped out of the book.
Judi Dench provides a warming touch in the film. She was just as lovable as in Cranford, yet at no point did she ‘get in the road’ of the story. Glad to see her in it! And I thought Jamie Bell did well as St. John Rivers.
I liked how the story was told in flashback. It starts out with Jane escaping across the moors, turning up at the Rivers’ household in a state of near death, and remembering the time of her childhood spent at Mr. Brocklehurst’s school for girls. Jane, as a young girl (played by Amelia Clarkson), is likeable and someone we can feel sympathetic for. Switching the story back and forth between childhood, Thornton, and the Rivers’, makes for a more balanced and interesting flow. I never felt the story was rushed or squeezed into a time frame.
I found this movie to be very true to the story, and especially to the original intent of Bronte’s tale. In the BBC version, it seems like they try to cover over the reason for Jane’s departure from Thornfield (out of conscience’s sake), like they are almost embarrassed by it, and instead make it look like she left out of sheer disappointment. They also sprinkle in as much sensuality as they can get away with. I was pleased that this version was cleaner than the BBC’s, and at no point did I have to cringe or reach for the fast forward button. I was also thrilled to see that this version fully supported the moral convictions of Jane, instead of apologizing for them. “I must respect myself,” Jane states, and we applaud.
However, as wonderful as this film was there were two things I was disappointed with and kept me from moving this to my favorite adaptation of JE, or even to my top favorite movies. One is the ending. They chopped it off way too soon and avoided explaining how Rochester had changed in the time since we last saw him. Are we to believe Jane ends up with the same selfish, deceitful man? I’m not willing to rest easy letting our heroine off with that. In the book, we learn that Rochester has been humbled and turns to faith in God. This was cut out and left the ending feeling unbalanced and Rochester scruffy.
The other thing that kept me from completely loving it, was that although Wasikowska and Fassbender are good actors, they didn’t seem to click together. Or at least, it wasn’t convincing enough for me to believe their relationship. I failed to see why Jane grew to love Rochester, and the romantic scenes looked a little awkward. Their dialogue (something the story hinges on) sounded flat and dead, not drawing me in. They might have been directed that way on purpose, although I don’t know why. This is something I love in the BBC version—there is a fun, playful chemistry between Jane and Rochester showing us that behind that gruff grizzly bear Jane sees a friend.
All in all, though, I would have to say this film was pretty well done and WELL worth seeing, especially if you’ve just the read the book and are wondering which version of it to watch.