With a clever screenplay written by Moira Buffini and some intelligent direction from Cary Fukunaga, this latest incarnation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a superb big-screen adaptation.
Jane Eyre’s childhood is one of misery and minimal love. After both her parents die while she is still very young, Jane is brought up by her rich aunt, who treats her with disregard and little compassion. After a torrid time at boarding school, she eventually ends up as the governess at Thornfield Hall, entrusted with the duty of raising the master of the house’s ward. After her employer, the Byronic hero Rochester, takes a shine to Miss Eyre, an impulsive love affair begins. However, is Jane’s object of desire all he seems? Or does he possess a sinister side, hidden to even her?
Mia Wasikowska comfortably steps into the plain and reserved shoes of Jane, giving a performance that is both emotional and convincing. Alongside her, Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the extremely wealthy Rochester is intense, enigmatic and ultimately redeeming. Adding to his acclaimed performances in the likes of X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method and Shame, Fassbender continues his remarkably impressive 2011.
With a solid supporting British cast of Craig Roberts, Sally Hawkins (both from Submarine), Jamie Bell and in particular the ageless Dame Judi Dench, the film’s depth and realism is greatly enhanced by strong acting.
Considering that Jane Eyre is Cary Fukunaga’s first venture into mainstream cinema, he handles the direction with surprising aptness. Filming a period drama, in particular one based on a novel regarded as a ‘classic’, requires a certain knowing touch, and Fukunaga denies his inexperience to frame and paces the picture with consummate professionalism. It’s also noticeably modern at times, in particular the score, which surrounds you like an ominous mid-1800s darkness. The lighting however, is classically handled, with many of the scenes illuminated entirely by candlelight.
Jane Eyre is an impressive adaptation showcasing interesting characters and a calculated, well-paced plot. The film retains a good balance between classic and modern, and Bronte’s immersive story is still entertaining, 164 years after it was originally published. Not exclusively for fans of period drama, this is a very enjoyable picture.