25 September 2011
Jane Eyre is an incredibly well-made period drama. It is also one of the most hauntingly beautiful films of this year. There is an emphasis of enunciation and mannerisms in the adaptations of Victorian literature, both on television and in film. Director Cary Fukunaga’s version of the tumultuous love in the rainy, gloomy northern England, however, emphasizes the story and the mood. I can’t think of a better costume drama than this Jane Eyre which captures the dark and eerie undertones of the source novel perfectly. This also bodes well for Andrea Arnold’s the upcoming Wuthering Heights, which looks amazing.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Jane Eyre is cast off by his aunt at an early age and grows up in a strict boarding school for ‘orphan’ girls like her. After years of tough education, she graduates as an able and mysterious governess and finds a job looking after the ward of one Edward Fairfax Rochester - the ill-tempered master of the Thornfield Manor. Seeing Jane as a different kind of ‘subordinate’, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to her. Jane, on the other hand, tries her best to avoid being sucked into a situation that she has never experienced in her life - that of a romantic attachment of a man. She is, however, unable to resist Rochester’s undoing of her icy exterior.
Things do not go according to plan as this relationship is doomed from the very start - in fact, doomed before it even starts. Fukunaga and screenwriter Moira Buffini balance the form and language of the source novel incredibly well, save for the inevitable twist, which comes in a little heavy-handed. Another source of concern is the framing story (all of this is in flashback), which is also rushed to make sure the running time is no longer than 2 hours. These sudden changes of pace feel a little out-of-place in a film that is otherwise incredibly powerful.
Mia Wasikowska plays Jane Eyre in a very understated fashion and that’s all the better for it, because a sudden change in her facial expression means a thousand words. Come awards season, her name will rightfully be mentioned a lot. Hopefully she can come out of it with a few of the small statuettes. Michael Fassbender is also fantastic as Rochester, equally frightening and charming at the same time. Supporting cast includes some heavyweights, such as Sally Hawkins as Jane’s despotic and plain-evil aunt Mrs Reed and Judi Dench as the kind housekeeper Mrs Fairfax.
Jane Eyre is a gorgeous film. The damp, eerie English landscape never looked so scary and beautiful at the same time. The countryside and the changing weather become a character unto themselves and complement the ‘human’ events perfectly. Even if you’re not into costume dramas, go and see this beautiful film. You will not regret it.