Wednesday, 31 August 2011
Film Review: Jane Eyre
Image from IMDB
"Sir, you are the most phantom-like of all."
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender
I don't really know how to start this review. The first time I ever came into contact with the story of Jane Eyre would have been in 2006 when the BBC version starring Toby Stephens screened on Channel 2. I remember they split it into two parts so that they could tell the whole story in detail, and in the interceding week, I bought the cheapest copy of the novel I could find and tried to speed read it because I HAD to know what happened. All in all, that version would have been about four hours long. This movie was not, it was about two hours.
The film starts in the middle, with Jane fleeing Thornfield and falling in with the Rivers' family. She relives her life in flashbacks, first to Gateshead, then to Lowood and then Thornfield, thus neatly splitting the stages of Jane's triumph whilst simultaneously minimizing the boring bit at the end before she is reunited with Rochester. But not only has the structure been changed from the original novel, a lot has also been either cut or severely curtailed. Blanche Ingram plays barely a passing role. There is no scene in which Rochester pretends to be a fortune teller. St.John Rivers is not in love with his benefactor's daughter because she does not exist. I found the pace of this movie incredibly strange. At times, the scenes were so short and expedient. At others, there seemed to almost be this 1960s perfume ad quality to it, in which Jane wanders through the garden and looks over her shoulder at the camera and touches the pretty flowers. In fact, if you ask Elisa, of the JustElisa blog, she would tell you that the movie is Pretty itself.
The scenery really was fantastic. I had flashbacks to the Secret Garden. And I think they used the same Thornfield exterior as in the BBC version.
Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre was... well let's put it this way, it's very hard to identify with Jane anyway because she is not cuddly. You don't want to be her best friend and stay up all night giggling and plaiting her hair. But in a movie, where there is no interior monologue to help you get to know an unemotional character it's even harder to love her. I think Wasikowska did a very faithful representation of Jane for that reason. But she's not my favourite. Nor was Fassbender my favourite Rochester, because that's still Toby Stephens. At times, his Rochester was not only grumpy and changable, but violent. The scene in which he begged Jane to live with him in sin almost seemed like a rape scene. I didn't think she was crying because she loved him, I thought she was crying because she was scared.
And this is the first adaptation in which I have thoroughly disliked Mrs. Fairfax at times. She could be a downright b-i-t-c-h sometimes. At others, you could feel sorry for her, like when Rochester insults her while she's still in the room. But she almost seemed creepy when she turned up in the ruins of Thornfield in time to meet Jane.
I was also extremely disappointed that Eliza and Georgiana never had their big blew. While a lot of the more comedic moments (i.e. when Jane tells the man from Lowood that the way to avoid Hell is not to die) were kept, and faithfully kept, some of the most memorable moments were slightly off.
All in all, I think it's probably not a fantastic version if you are a purist...