I don't see many movies in the theater, so I'm usually way behind everyone else in seeing new releases. I have been wanting to see the 2011 version of "Jane Eyre" for quite a while now, so I was very pleased when it came up on my Nexflix queue.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, this is a beautiful if sometimes grim version of the classic story. Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska from Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland") leaves her joyless childhood behind to earn her way as a governess at gloomy Thornfield Hall. The master of the hall is the mysterious Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender from "Fish Tank"). From their first meeting he is demanding and abrupt, but she sees in him someone who is more like her than not, someone who is willing to engage her as an intellectual equal, someone, though he denies it, who wants to be a truly fine person.
Wasikowska's Jane captures perfectly the Jane of the book. She is small and quiet, almost supernaturally serene in the midst of life's storms, but she has a spine of steel. When she realizes Rochester's true circumstances and what he wants her to do, what he begs her to do, she stays strong. Despite her aching love for him, despite his clinging to her, desperate for that love, she holds herself away from him, knowing it is the only thing she can do and be true to herself. And when she comes back to him, when she knows it is right to come back, she does it with that same deep certainty. She has done what she must.
Some would say that Fassbender's Rochester is too handsome for the role. Certainly the book describes the character as being less than beautiful. Fassbender is no pretty boy, but he has more than his share of attractive qualities, not the least being the mere intensity of his presence. Even though Jane knows, and we know, that what he wants is wrong, he makes that desire understandable, even reasonable. He makes her denial of him seem almost cruel, even though she is the one who has been wronged.
Besides the two leads, I very much enjoyed Dame Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper. As always, she brings depth to her role, saying a great deal about the secrets she's surrounded by with just a glance or a particular tone of voice while never revealing anything in words.
I think, all in all, this is one of my favorite productions of Bronte's story. This Jane and Rochester have a tension between them that really fuels the movie. Beyond that, the supporting players, the costumes and sets, the cinematography, everything about the movie was very well done. The only thing that really bothered me was the abruptness of the ending. As a friend recently told me, "If you watch a movie where someone has been trying the whole time to get a donut, you'd better be able to watch him enjoy that donut once he gets it." Yes, this Jane Eyre gives Jane and Rochester their happy ending, but we only get the briefest glimpse of it before the credits start rolling.
Still, I would definitely recommend it. I'd like to see it again.
Did you see this version of Jane Eyre? If so, what did you think of it?
What other film versions of this story have you seen?