The trouble with adaptations is that people come with expectations. They arrive with pictures already in their heads, an intimate knowledge of the plot, the characters and their motivations and worst of all, the ending. So how can you make a film that doesn’t bore the pants off people who know what’s going to happen, whilst not leaving people who don’t completely in the dark? Pretty much like this actually.
Right from the visually stunning opening (thank you, bits of Yorkshire moor) it doesn’t matter if you know what Jane (Mia Wasikowska) is running from, or why, or what’s going to happen next. The range of amazing performances in this film will keep you hooked whether you know the plot inside and out or not.
Having read the book and the prequel of sorts that was written in 1966, I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of back story that Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender (Mr Rochester) were successfully able to convey with a look. In fact Wasikowska’s extraordinary ability to deliver an understated yet complex performance was what attracted director Cary Fukunaga to her for this role. Fassbender is completely perfect as Rochester, he has such a fantastic presence and does a wonderful job of being confused, affronted and fascinated by turns during his conversations with Jane. The only instance in which he falls slightly short is being just a bit too good at flirting smoothly with Miss Ingram, played wonderfully spitefully by Imogen Poots.
Other stellar performances include Judi Dench, another actress capable of saying entire sentences with just her eyebrows, Sally Hawkins as the uncaring, unmoveable Aunt Reed and a fantastically nasty appearance from fellow Submarine star Craig Roberts in a scene that made the whole audience gasp.
The aesthetic of Jane Eyre is amazing. The whole film just looks good. Haddon Hall in Derbyshire was chosen as the main setting for Thornfield and not for the first time it turns out. It was used in the 1996 version, and more recently for filming parts of Pride & Prejudice (2005) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). The surrounding moors and dales are spectacular, wild and windswept, having captured the imagination of Fukunaga who described them as “something straight out of a Tim Burton horror film.” There are some incredibly beautiful shots, in all seasons and weathers. They also lend themselves well to some of the genuinely scary moments in the film, the first time Jane meets Mr Rochester is guaranteed to make you jump. The same can be said for the Hall itself, atmospherically lit often by a single candle as Jane frets over the strange noises that echo through Thornfield after dark.
Obviously it is a tough job to fit a tale of this nature and complexity into a two hour film. However, whatever else he misses out, Fukunaga gives more than enough time to develop a believable rapport between the two protagonists and the relationship around which the whole story orbits. We are delivered a highly enjoyable, beautifully shot film with a lofty calibre of performance. It captures the essence of a classic love story perfectly. It’s essentially a film for the romantic in all of us (with whatever dark secrets in the attic that comes with it.) If Michael Fassbender’s heartbreaking portrayal of a proud man brought to his knees by love doesn’t make you shed even a little tear you’re probably dead inside.
Fran works at Phoenix Square as a Front of House Assistant and has a thoroughly useful degree in Drama. Her interests aside from films are mainly tea and cake. Occasionally biscuits.