Saturday, March 24, 2012

Movie Review : Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre 


Starring Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, and Judi Dench

I viewed the recent remake of Charlotte  Brontë's classic novel Jane Eyre. In case you don't know the story, I shall try to summarize it. Jane Eyre is the poor relation of a wealthy family who can't be bothered with her. Her aunt sends her off to a strict and dour boarding school where girls are frozen to death and beaten with rods for disobedience. Jane's experiences make her meek yet resilient to hardship. After finishing at school, she's sent to work as a governess at Thornfield Hall to a young girl named Adèle Varens who is the ward of Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester. Jane likes the forward young French girl and enjoys living in a grand house and the freedom of walking out of doors through all kinds of gloomy weather. 

On one of her walks she accidentally causes a horse to fall and injure it's rider who is faults Jane for the accident. Jane soon discovers that the injured man is her employer, Mr. Rochester. He's temperamental but intelligent and seems glad to talk to Jane. Sometimes he goes away for long periods of time and on one such occasion he brings back a party which includes the beautiful Blanche Ingram, whom the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, believes Mr. Rochester has chosen for his bride. Mysterious events happen in the nighttime, perhaps caused by the ghost/vampire lady Adèle claims wanders the halls at night. Jane saves Mr. Rochester's life and they fall in love. 

On her wedding day, Jane discovers a terrible secret and runs madly across the moors, falling into a swoon in the brush where she's discovered by a young clergyman, St. John Rivers. St. John and his sisters nurse Jane back to health and St. John makes plans for Jane's future. Jane decides on her own path.

This movie is visually stunning. It's dark, foggy and gloomy when appropriate and as Jane falls in love, spring arrives and everything is sunny and the gardens are blooming. I especially liked the outdoor scenes. They were very effective. I have a fascination with the world of the
Brontës and loved seeing it come to life.
The plot seems mostly faithful to what I can remember from the book. It's told in flashback which makes the story a bit confusing to follow. It does leave out or quickly gloss over some things for the sake of time and that's not really a good thing. It's very very slow moving and I kept thinking about shutting it off but stuck with it. The romance is really rushed and shown but not developed. The ending is suitably gothic though I'm not sure it conveys what Charlotte Brontë intended it to. The movie seems to go in for the gothic plot over the important themes that the author intended.
The acting is excellent. Mia's Jane is meek yet strong. She can stand up for herself when she needs to, which the actress does without being overly melodramatic. Her scenes of anguish were nicely done. They were not over the top as is easy to do in a period drama such as this. Michael Fassbender's Rochester is passionate, temperamental and not quite as creepy as he appears in the novel but not as kind as the recent mini-series that aired on PBS. As she does in Cranford, Judi Dench provides a quiet, dignified old lady to act as a mother figure to the heroine. Jamie Bell is a bit too tormented as St. John Rivers. He's supposed to be a foil for Rochester and I found him too brooding but his acting was pretty good given the part. 

I keep watching adaptations hoping I'll like the story better but I just can not. In the novel, Mr. Rochester comes across as more controlling and creepy than mildly sympathetic. He treats Adele like a pet and Jane like a possession. I can not love him nor can I forgive him for the mad woman in the attic, no matter how kind the gesture. He kept her a secret for too long, holding too much power over everyone and abusing poor Jane's trust. As Mrs. Fairfax notes, Jane is young and has little experience with men and I believe Mr. Rochester takes advantage of that fact. Given my opinions of the story, I'm not the best judge to say whether the movie was good or not. I'll let you read my thoughts and decide whether you agree or want to watch it or not.

p.s This story is far better suited for vampires and zombies than Jane Austen!

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