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Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre" has been my favorite book since I was 11
years old. The tale of a feisty orphan-girl-turned-governess who finds
true love in a spooky mansion and ultimately redeems a tormented hero
has made it to the top of every "Best Love Stories" list since it was
first published in 1847, and with good reason. It's the perfect Gothic
novel, melding mystery, horror, and the classic medieval castle setting
with heart-stopping romance.
There have been at least 18 film versions of "Jane Eyre" and 9 made-for-television movies--27 in all! I have seen most of them, some multiple times-both out of my deep love for the tale, and as part of the research for my novel "The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë," the true story of Charlotte's remarkable life, her inspiration behind "Jane Eyre," and her turbulent, real-life romance.
Every screen version of JANE EYRE has its merits. I especially loved Timothy Dalton's portrayal of Mr. Rochester in the 1983 mini-series, and the 2006 Masterpiece Theatre mini-series starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. I was very curious to see how the new JANE EYRE adaptation from Focus Films would measure up. I am happy to report that the film, which I saw last night at an advance screening, is very good indeed, with marvelous visuals, terrific performances, and enough unique elements to make it a worthy new addition.
The most notable distinction that sets this film apart from the rest is its structure. Rather than telling the tale in a linear fashion, it begins at a crisis moment later in the story, and tells the majority of the tale in flashback-which works wonderfully well, enabling screenwriter Moira Buffini to effectively compress a long novel into a two-hour time span.
The movie opens as Jane is fleeing Thornfield after having discovered Mr. Rochester's dark and heartbreaking secret. We fear for her as she becomes lost on the stormy moor. The mystery continues as St. John Rivers (well-played by a sympathetic yet appropriately stern Jamie Bell) and his sisters take her in. As Jane ruminates about the past events that led to her escape, we are treated to the story in flashback.
The casting of Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre also sets this production apart, since she is closer in age than most actresses who've played the role to the character in the novel, who was about 18 years old in the Thornfield section. Although I wish Mia's Jane was a bit more "swoony" over Mr. Rochester earlier on (yes, she is supposed to be stoic, but I missed that phase where we get to see her blossom as she falls in love with him, and then is utterly crushed when she believes him to be in love with Miss Ingram), Mia truly inhabits the role, beautifully portraying Jane's sense of self-respect, integrity, and restraint, as well as her passion and vulnerability.
Michael Fassbender embodies Mr. Rochester with the ideal blend of charisma and sinister brooding, while at the same time allowing glimpses of his underlying desperation and the wounded depths of his soul. Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Reed effectively portrays the icy ogre who menaces the young Jane (a spirited and appealing Amelia Clarkson.) And Judi Dench, as always, gives a superb performance as housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax.
The film's locations do justice to the novel's often gloomy, atmospheric tone. Director Cary Fukunaga makes excellent use of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, one of the oldest houses in England, as Thornfield Hall, emphasizing its dark, Gothic, masculine feel. The exterior locations--gardens, cliffs, craggy rocks, stone walls, and seemingly endless fields--make an arresting, dramatic backdrop for the story. You truly feel as though you are in the middle of nowhere.
My only minor gripes are that when Mr. Rochester's secret is revealed, it feels a little too prettified, and the ending was too abrupt for me. But that aside, the filmmakers have done a masterful job translating the novel to the screen. I highly recommend it! --Syrie James
The oft-filmed Charlotte Brontë's Gothic novel has been adapted into TV
and film more than two dozen times. Here's a summary of what works and
what doesn't in this 2011 version:
Cary Fukunaga's direction. He preferred natural light for much of the film, forgoing camera lighting and instead opted for candles which created the proper dark, moody and gloomy atmosphere that matches Rochester's temperament perfectly. He used some hand-held camera work to great effect, but not too much so that it became distracting. Thornfield Hall, Rochester's expansive mansion looked like something Count Dracula could comfortably settle in. It practically becomes its own character here and adds the necessary spookiness we come to expect from this Gothic tale.
Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax When does Dame Judi ever disappoint? Apparently never. Even in small roles, the scenes she's in are one of the best ones in the movie. There was an important scene involving Jane and Rochester where Mrs. Fairfax didn't utter a single word, but she made quite an impact just with her expression.
Mia Wasikowska as Jane. A lot of the issues I have with literary adaptation is that the supposedly plain heroine usually ends up being played actresses who are too glamorous for the role. Fortunately in this one, Wasikowska was believable as a plain young girl, though she obviously is a pretty girl. At 18, she's also the perfect age for the role. If I were to nitpick though, she's not exactly 'little' as she's described in the novel as Rochester doesn't quite tower over her. In any case, I thought she did a wonderful job carrying the film. She captures the essence of the strong-willed character who holds her own against her much older subject of her affection, and one who despite 'not being well-acquainted with men' doesn't seem intimidated by them.
Michael Fassbender as Rochester. In many ways, we evaluate a Jane Eyre adaptation by its Rochester, and as long as we use that 'calculation,' I think he measures up quite well. He has a strong screen presence and is the kind of actor who's usually the best thing even in a so-so film, and he makes the most of what's given to him. Even with the relatively short screen time, which is less than what I had hoped, he's able to make us care for Rochester.
This cliff-notes version feels way too fast. With a complex story like this, no doubt it'd be a challenge for any filmmaker, no matter how talented, to pare it down into a two-hour movie. So it's inevitable that this film just moves along too quick for me. Of course that is not Fukunaga's fault and he really made the best of it, but still this version just leaves me wanting more. I guess this is perhaps a more 'accessible' version for the crowd that otherwise would not watch JE. But to me, the story is compelling enough that an extra half-hour would only enhance the viewing experience and allow enough time for the characters to develop an authentic connection.
Dialog omission. This is perhaps a result of being 'spoiled' by the comprehensive 1983 version (which at 5.5 hours is perhaps the longest screen adaptation). Of course it's impossible to include every single dialog from the book, but I was hoping at least some of the important ones are kept. The famous quotes such as "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me", "Do as I do: trust in God and yourself", "Reader, I married him" are not spoken in this adaptation. I also find some of the delivery lacks bite, y'know that certain oomph that an actor does to bring those timeless words to life.
Jamie Bell seems miscast. Now, keep in mind I really like Jamie as an actor and have said so many times on my blog (http://tinyurl.com/mozzs5) However, I don't feel he's right for the role of St. John Rivers. Firstly, when you've already got someone as striking as Fassbender as Rochester, I'd think the casting agent would have to find someone much fairer than he. No offense to Jamie, but that's not the case here and he certainly doesn't fit the book description of 'tall, fair with blue eyes, and with a Grecian profile.' Now, physical appearance aside, he also lack the solemn and pious sensibility of a Christian missionary.
Unconventional storyline Moira Buffini's script tells the story in flashback mode instead of following the novel's linear storyline. The movie starts off right as Jane is leaving Thornfield, which is right smack dab where the main crisis of the story begins. Now, I can understand that it's done to make it less tedious, yet it gets confusing at times to figure out which part happens in the past or present. I think for someone not familiar with the book, the shuffled time line might be a bit tough to follow.
IN CONCLUSION, despite leaving the theater wanting more, I do think this is a worthy adaptation. The production quality is top notch, with gorgeous cinematography, affecting light work and music that serve the story well. There is even one scene of Jane and Rochester that Fukunaga took liberty with that's quite tantalizing. It caught me off guard but I must say that scene left me breathless and is an effective way to convey how much Jane longed for her true love.
But in the end, even though I adore Fassbender, he still hasn't replaced Timothy Dalton as my favorite Rochester. Sure, the production quality of this one is superior, but what makes a Jane Eyre story so fascinating and memorable are the heart-wrenching connection between the two main protagonists and the dialog spoken between them, so in that regard, the 1983 version is still the one to beat.
I saw a sneak preview of Jane Eyre last night at AFI/Silver in Silver Spring MD. This is a beautifully filmed, engrossing, and haunting version of the classic Charlotte Bronte novel Jane Eyre. This film is worth seeing and it will leave you thinking about it long after you have left the theater. It captures that otherworldly and isolated environment that Jane inhabits in her lonely life. After you witness the unloved childhood and brutal boarding school you can understand how Jane can not only adapt to her isolated employment but revel in a world where the absence of abuse is a relief. One thing that struck me was the way the actress portraying Jane Eyre, Mia Wasikowska, inhabited Jane's being. The quiet stillness, the dignity, the steely nerves under the mask of composure. I have been trying to recall another actress who portrayed the physicality of a woman, a governess, in that time period so perfectly. She wasn't a modern actress in a corset, she moved like a young woman who is used to the corset and layers of cloth, and the expectations on a young woman in Victorian England. I also particularly enjoyed the portrayal of a vibrant, intelligent, woman who knows she is caged by the norms of her society and her position in it. Miss Wasikowska did a wonderful portrayal of Jane, giving her great depth while still letting the emotions flit across her usually stoic face. I also liked Mrs Reed - she is a wholly human villain, petty, cruel, insecure, and resentful. You can see her in Miss Ingram, a petty woman who could turn hateful. The young Jane is a stand out performance, all spit and fury, you realize that Jane's survival is due to her courage. That the intensity of the child is coiled inside the adult Jane. The cinematography is beautiful, the sets and costumes look accurate, the screenplay handled well, and the directing outstanding. I also appreciate that no character was over done. This film will age well, where some other versions can make you cringe now. This film is going to make me pick up the novel and read it again after a very long time. Not a bad recommendation for a movie.
As an avid fan of the novel, I was very excited to see this preview and
I have waited anxiously for the film. I finally saw it today at the
threatre and it was wonderful! Excellent. This is the best film version
of "Jane Eyre" yet (and I've seen most of them.) This is hands-down the
best CASTING for "Jane Eyre" yet. I have never seen a more perfect Jane
Eyre, Edward Rochester, or Mrs. Fairfax. Period. Jane brought tears to
my eyes so many, many times in this film. She was simply perfect.
Small, soft-spoken, young, composed, graceful, dignified, and lovely in
her uniquely plain way. And Edward Rochester? Wow --what a ruggedly
handsome man! He was certainly not "pretty-boy handsome"; but rugged,
masculine, with sharp features, a deep voice, and a sometimes abrupt
and harsh manner. He was exactly as described in "Jane Eyre!" BRAVO to
you both, Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska!
In my opinion, Fassbender and Wasikowska have finally given us perfect embodiments of all we adored in them.... Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester--two of the most beloved fictional characters of all time. Brilliant performances, really. I am truly delighted.
The sets, costumes, lighting, art, mood, cinematography, and score were all excellent. I hope the Academy Award is awake and paying attention!
Loving the novel as I do, I found a few flaws I must mention: I didn't think Blanche was nearly pretty enough; Bertha was not frightening enough; Rochester's kindnesses to Jane were not displayed here (an audience member might wonder why she loved him as she did); St. John Rivers was a much harsher character here --not gentle and lovable as he was in the book; and lastly, the film was less than two hours long and therefore too much was left out of the story. I fervently wish it could have been 20 or 30 minutes longer. Another 20 or 30 minutes might have helped the audience understand even better Jane's desolate past, her fierce love for Rochester, and her bright future.
That may sound like a lot of criticism, but you must consider what a masterpiece the novel "Jane Eyre" is. The novel is often considered ahead of its time due to its masterful portrayal of the development of a thinking and passionate young woman who is individualistic, desiring for a full life, while also highly moral.
Overall, I highly recommend the film. It was artfully told. I cried; I gasped; I laughed; I flinched; and I cried some more. I know I'll enjoy watching it again and again.
THANK YOU to the actors, director, and everyone involved in bringing this film to its fruition. Hopefully, it will prompt new generations of fans to read the novel and fall in love with Jane Eyre, as so many of us have since it was published in 1847.
This film is beautiful, romantic, frightening, sometimes funny, and ultimately very moving. See it on the big screen at the theatre. I think you'll love it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm very surprised to read the glowing reviews this version of Jane
Eyre is receiving. Like other reviewers, Jane Eyre is my absolute
favorite book and so I've seen every TV/movie version of it starting
with the Orson Welles version. I will agree that the scenery was
gorgeous, but other than that, I was pretty disappointed. There's no
way to condense this fantastic story into a two-hour movie and do it
justice; there's just too much detail and when left out, it makes for a
choppy retelling. While watching it, at first I kept "filling in" all
the parts that were left out. Then I'd try to watch it as someone who
had never read the book, but that left me too confused because of the
speed at which the story was told, and the flashback retelling of the
Also, this version has Jane becoming an heiress, but what about the fact that St. John and his sisters truly *are* Jane's relatives??? Her generosity to them wasn't just a nice gesture for taking her in when she showed up at their door.
The ending completely irritated me. Jane and Rochester's reunion at the end was a second love story, and it received all of 1-2 minutes before cutting off.
I also agree with other reviewers who didn't see/feel any passion between this Jane and Rochester. While I did like their looks for the parts, their scenes together felt like they were reciting lines, not falling in love with each other. And I didn't see any of the passion in Michael Fassbender that you could see with Timothy Dalton or Toby Stephens. If anything, he made me think that Daniel Day-Lewis would make for an excellent Rochester by bringing more depth to the character.
All in all, I would recommend people to use their money to rent the Timothy Dalton or Toby Stephens version of this story vs. using it to attend this version.
Don't get me wrong--I've read the novel hundreds of times, and I've
endeavored to see as many film and TV adaptations of Jane Eyre as I
can. Jane Eyre is and always will be my favorite novel. But I'm very
surprised by the glowing reviews on IMDb.com for this version of Jane
Eyre. This movie wasn't bad, but it falls way short of 10 stars.
No re-hashing of the plot is necessary since everyone knows the story, so here's what I found unsatisfying about this version: * Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska's chemistry is not that great--not the caliber you would expect from a movie version of Rochester and Jane. I didn't feel like they truly longed and desired for each other. The actors in the 2006 BBC miniseries version, Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson, left me breathless. But Fassbender and Wasikowska felt flat.
I don't think Michael Fassbender was particularly a strong Rochester either. Rochester is suppose to be eccentric, dark, brooding, and prone to sudden mood changes--charming one minute, angry the next. Fassbender got the brooding part down, but didn't really display the range of emotions you would expect from a Byronic character like Rochester.
* Too much had to be cut in order to cram the story in, and the pace of the plot doesn't flow well. I'm convinced that a good adaptation of the novel can never be done in a 2-hour movie because the novel is just too darn long.
* Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax? Serious miscasting and a waste of Dench's talent. You hire Dench to kick ass and take names, not be the mild-mannered simpleton housekeeper.
* Rochester is suppose to be ugly and Jane's suppose to be PLAIN. Fassbender's too handsome and Wasikowska's too pretty. But this seems to be a crucial point many movie and TV adaptations botch, so I can't hold it against them too much.
Again, it wasn't a bad movie, but not the best adaptation. My personal favorite remains the 2006 version.
This movie is exquisite. It is an example of how a dramatic movie should be made. Far from being corny or contrived, this movie is about integrity, courage, loyalty, and friendship. The movie is beautifully filmed and conveys the moodiness and foreboding associated with the story. The acting is great by all members of the cast. This movie tells a story and tells it well. It provides a glimpse of nineteenth century English society and how people looked and acted at that time. Yet the movie is more than a period piece; its themes are timeless. At no time does the story drag. Jane Eyre is heroic. She is the epitome of human goodness, not the kind that's candy-coated but the kind that is genuine. She transcends a harsh childhood to become a source of great strength for everyone around her. Unlike most Hollywood movies today, Jane Eyre is story-driven, and the story is strong. This movie is well worth watching and the title character is a role model for adolescents or young adults of all ages to emulate.
This is less a review than an impression that I've been posting at a few sites - I'm an avowed cinephile so I hope that counts for something, but for people who have not seen this film yet, I only want to give a thumbnail. Sometimes a short emotionally-infused impression is better: Oh my. I'm just back from the film and espresso afterward. Never cried so much at any film version of this story. Finally, the best-paired two actors, a writer who knew how to bring out the best of the novel, and a director to pull it all together. Somehow, Director Fukunaga found a way to make it fresh without any modernism at all, with help from Screenwriter Moira Buffini. I do not want to go into detail - I want you to discover this film for yourself. I will say, for me, they mined everything that was important and gave it beautiful expression and downplayed the melodramatic elements of Bronte's story. They simply aren't necessary. We now have a definitive version of Jane Eyre for the ages.
Charlotte Brontë's seminal literary work "Jane Eyre" has been adapted
countless times and prepared in a myriad of ways from the 1943 Joan
Fontaine/Orson Welles version that was whittled to an hour and a half
to the 1983 BBC mini-series with Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton that
spans five-plus hours. That certainly begs the question of why anyone,
from writer Moira Buffini to director Cary Fukunaga to Dame Judi Dench,
would feel inspired to recreate this coming-of-age story about love and
accepting its blemishes.
Fukunaga's ("Sin Nombre") take doesn't exactly provide an amazing revelation or epiphanic justification for bringing "Jane Eyre" back to life, but it does prove that no classic can be so overdone that it becomes untouchable; even the most tried and dated of love stories can find new life. Fukanaga has given "Jane Eyre" a photorealistic makeover devoid of frills and fiercely au naturel, but no less gripping than the story's "livelier" retellings.
Fictional period dramas often feel overtly pristine and glazed over to the point of fairytale, but in watching this film, you get the sense that this is quite possibly how the story would have looked and felt if it had been true. All the way down to accents, this rendition has clearly labored over historical authenticity and it shows in the finished product.
Mia Wasikowska ("The Kids Are All Right") continues to choose spot-on independent films despite leading the billion-dollar "Alice in Wonderland" of 2010 and it continues to pay off. She's clearly adept at embodying literary characters, or at least at recreating them within herself rather than worrying about trying to become the way the majority perceives them. Her modest looks suit Jane perfectly and she can play both the fragile girl who has been so often wronged by those who were supposed to care for her and the somewhat self-assured young woman who so plainly understands right from wrong.
Buffini ("Tamara Drewe") tells "Jane Eyre" in an un-narrated flashback. The film opens with Jane dashing away from the spectre of the Thornfield estate and stumbling through the beautifully captured but cold and desolate English countryside in a state of total anguish. She arrives at the Rivers' place where they enquire as to her identity. As the voice of Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender) beckons her, she cannot block out the memories of her journey. The film then catches up to that point in real time and continues on to the end.
Other than a terrific performance from Amelia Clarkson as young Jane, the early chapters involving Lowood School seem to be of less significance in this version other than the very clear point to establish Mr. Brocklehurst as an insensitive headmaster and clearly spell out Jane's early traumas that have affected her perspective. The love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester and the way it affects Jane takes supreme precedence in this film and with a two- hour run time, rightfully so. Nevertheless, the short beginnings prevent the film from showing the whole scope of Jane's troubled life.
Fassbender and Wasikowska work terrifically and manage to communicate the class and age discrepancy that made "Jane Eyre" a juicy read back in the 19th Century. Fassbender does seem to let Rochester's guard down quicker than expected, but I enjoyed his choice to be less standoffish and more brooding; he determines his secret to be more a responsibility of an unfortunate nature than a loathsome burden. His love for Jane then feels more sincere.
An actress as magnetizing as Judi Dench choosing to play the caretaker Mrs. Fairfax sums up the humble attitude of this "Jane Eyre." She uses her gravitas to the effect of being the film's lone comic relief and complements the scenes rather than stealing them from Wasikowska, who is 55 years her junior.
The film itself aims for subtlety and chooses not to amp up the shock value of the story's most pivotal scenes. There's some manufactured suspense, but it's mostly natural. It ends up being the most commendable aspect of Fukunaga's vision, but maybe the most hampering as well. He creates exceptional tone and mood with the help of his wonderful cast and this seizes our interest, but his "Jane" never takes a chance with any emotional punches. A superbly crafted film, just not a resonant one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A lover of Charlotte Bronte's novel, I did not care for this movie
version of Jane Eyre.
Perhaps for someone who has never read the book, the movie works, but I thought the screenplay was seriously lacking (and strangely slow paced, given how much of the story was left out).
For my money, Moira Buffini, who wrote the screenplay, just didn't seem able to properly portray the development of Jane/Rochester's relationship, especially given the 2-hour time constraint. In fact, I was left wondering whether Buffini had thoroughly read (or attempted to understand) the novel or if she just based her hit-or-miss screenplay on some Cliff Notes version.
I think it's safe to assume that some of the blame also lies with Cary Fukunaga's direction of his actors. For all I know, maybe the resulting movie was largely his own vision of "Jane Eyre the Movie", rather than Buffini's.
Central to the story is the evolving relationship between Jane and Edward Rochester. However, in this version, the viewer is expected to "get" that Jane and Edward are falling for each other based on a few spotty scenes or bits of dialog, with much of the book's context missing. I found myself having to mentally fill in way too many blanks.
I think that an extra 20 minutes would have been perfect to flesh out the Jane/Rochester dialog and to allow for the addition of a scene or two where we could see why these two people become attracted to each other. (For example, how about a 1-to-2-minute montage of scenes of Rochester waxing eloquent about his exotic travels and the interesting people he's met, with Jane listening raptly?)
The ending needed to be expanded an extra 5 or so minutes as well. That's one of the most delicious parts of the story, and I didn't care to see it all sewn up in 60 seconds.
Michael Fassbinder was a pleasant surprise. He might be a little better looking than Rochester ought to be, but I could see early on that he had the chops to pull off what could have been the best Rochester yet (well, in a better-written film). I liked that he seemed willing to show us the really not-so-likable side of Rochester, and those mercurial moods we see in the book.
Mia Wasikowska's abilities I'm not too sure about (although I did think she had an acceptably young and plain look about her, unlike Ruth Wilson, whose un-Janian-like looks ruined the 2006 version for me).
I thought that Mia largely failed to convey, with her unchanging, serious expression, all the turmoil that Jane is experiencing inwardly as her relationship with Rochester develops. Since we don't have benefit of a narrator in the movie, as we do in the book, we rely on the actor to tell or show us what's going on inside. I don't think Mia did an effective job of this.
I found the main characters' chemistry spotty at best. I'm blaming most of this on the screenplay as well. And here's why:
During the post-wedding scene--where Rochester pleads his case-- both actors demonstrated that they *could* have chemistry together-- nice chemistry--and *could* convey all the passion I had been expecting, but not seeing, elsewhere in the movie.
But this chemistry only appeared for me when the dialog and the scene were fleshed out enough to clearly show the actors the way, as in the above-mentioned instance. I felt like Mia particularly did not connect with the character of Jane, without benefit of sufficient dialog, context, and direction. Again, I felt that the screenplay (and maybe direction) simply let the actors down more often than not; they simply did not have enough to "hang their hats on," so to speak.
The one thing this version of JE really did have going for it (IMO) was the wonderful cinematography, costumes, and sets.
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