March 30, 2011

Movie Review: Jane Eyre (2011)

If you are a Bronte connoisseur, a lover of Jane Eyre, or a big fan of period gothic romance, you probably should not read this as I am none of the above. I am not against any of those things, they just cannot be used to describe me. That, I am certain, brings up another question, why did I go see this new version of Jane Eyre when I cannot say I particularly care about it. Well, the answer to that is fairly simple. I quite liked the trailer. The trailer has this great eerie, creepy, dark, and emotional look and feel that is fairly alluring. Actually, I think the biggest component in getting me in the theater was the use of a piece of Goblin's score from Suspiria in the trailer.

I know, seems like such a silly reason for seeing a movie, especially when there are so many other, better, reasons to see or not see a given movie. As it is, I had to drive out of my to see it and there was a good deal of internal debate over whether it was worth it or not. It is not a genre I generally go for, although I am always up for a good movie of any genre. In any case, it must be abundantly clear by now that I did make the drive and I did see the movie. There is also the fact that I actually liked the movie, quite a bit actually. There are certain problems I have with it, but overall it is a film of striking beauty, haunting atmosphere, and tragic characters that you just have to feel for.

To say I am unfamiliar with Jane Eyre or anything having to do with Charlotte (or Emily, for that matter) Bronte would be a massive understatement. I know that there are people who study every word, examine every phrase and just love everything about the story (save for some of the adaptations), I am not one of those people. The closest I get is the feeling that I read it back in school, although I am not even sure about that.  If all of this invalidates my thoughts, so be it. Frankly, I don't care. I liked the movie.

This new cinematic adaptation opens with Jane (Mia Wasikowska) fleeing Thornfield Manor. We watch as she leaves the manor in the background, crosses the moors, and nearly dies in the wake of a torrential rain. She is saved and taken in by St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell) where she stays with him and her sisters. She is presented as a plain woman who is notable for her desire to make her own way. It is here where the story is told primarily through flashbacks.

We see Jane as a young girl being tormented by, I am assuming, an older cousin and taking the blame for the ensuing ruckus by her rather nasty aunt (Sally Hawkins). She is ultimately sent to a boarding school which has a strong believer in corporal punishment, with girls taking strikes from a wooden stick for their misbehavings. All of these parts of Jane's life are well, if lightly, represented. The bulk of the story focuses on her time in Thornfield working as  Governess for Rochester (Michael Fassbender), teaching his young ward Adele Varens (Romy Settbon Moore). While working there, she also develops a friendship with the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench).

The important part of what happens in Thornfield is what happens between Jane and her employer, Rochester, or rather what doesn't happen. There is a creepy atmosphere all throughout the manor, one that is as beautiful as it is haunting. There is the imposing feeling of something missing, in the form of Rochester. Then there is the relationship between Rochester and Jane when he is there.

The relationship between Rochester and Jane is where most of my problems lie. Being the centerpiece of the movie, I expected there to be a little bit more to it. The scenes they share a pretty powerful with a feeling of impending doom surrounding them (that's what I saw anyway). The problem is that they share too little screen time. The movie may run two hours, but their scenes are few and far between. This is my biggest complaint with the movie and I think it is because both Wasikowska and Fassbender are so good in the roles that I wish they had more time to really bring their relationship to the next level.

Director Cary Fukunaga brings a methodical and haunting vision to the screen. There are is plenty to look at on the screen, lots of interesting locations, angles, and sequences. It may be slow moving, but it is steady and never boring. It is a movie that very nearly hits on everything it touches. Definitely a movie to see on the big screen.

I may be an ignorant clod when it comes to the original text, but there is no denying the effectiveness of this as a film. I am sure it will disappoint fans (movies like this always seem to), despite all of the positives that are brought to the table.

Highly Recommended.

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Womens Voices said...

Actually, from a fan of the novel (, she still wrote a very strong review for the movie, impressed by the vision and the cast.

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