Sunday, April 17, 2011

The new "Jane Eyre" movie

I saw the new (2011) movie version of Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” yesterday and liked it. Of course the movie is a bit different from the book, as all movie adaptations are. A major difference is that the narrative is not in chronological order; the film starts with Jane’s desperately fleeing Thornfield Hall after she finds out about Rochester’s mad wife in the attic, and shows her miserable days on the moors before she reaches safety at St. John’s house. Then there are flashbacks to her childhood with her cruel aunt and at the dreary orphanage. Certain scenes are necessarily omitted, or skimmed over, but the basic bones of the story are there. Mia Waskowska is excellent as Jane, effectively showing her stillness, her held-in passionate feelings, and the rare but powerful outbreak of passionate expression of anger or love. Although -- or maybe because -- it is a very controlled performance, I found I couldn’t take my eyes off this actress. I liked Michael Fassbender as Rochester less; he lacks the strong, dramatic presence that the role requires, in my opinion. In any case, Rochester’s initial rudeness and arrogance, as portrayed in the novel, are downplayed, as they have been in other filmed adaptations. The movie is also enhanced by the presence of the always wonderful Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax. I will admit that I was happy just to have the chance to relive this rich and compelling story. After reading the novel many times, teaching it several times, and seeing several movie and television versions of it, I never tire of the story of this plain, unfortunate young woman who somehow, despite all the difficulties and sadness of her childhood, has the strength and confidence to stand up for herself no matter what, acknowledges and allows herself to feel and express passion, and has the ethics and self-respect never to compromise her beliefs. Charlotte Bronte’s creation, Jane Eyre, is truly unique and inspiring, even today, and I think this film by director Cary Fukunaga does her justice.

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