I went to see the new “Jane Eyre” film today and really enjoyed it (FYI, I am a huge fan of the novel). I highly recommend it for these reasons:
* The lead actors were fantastic. Even the child actor they chose for Jane Eyre let you into her soul through her eyes. Michael Fassbender was the best Rochester I’ve ever seen, and I’m something of a connoisseur of Rochesters. As a rule, they tend to bluster, using noise as the signifier of his inner turmoil. This Rochester seemed to have a real inner life, although I have already read one reviewer who criticised him as “unsmoldering” and “gentlemanly.” I beg to differ. Rochester smolders and sulks until he understands who Jane is and what her effect upon him is. Then his mood alters and he becomes the hopeful man he had been in his youth, before tragedy began ravaging his life. I think this film was not inaccurate in that. Mia Wasikowska was a radiant Jane who made you long for her happiness even as you understood every difficult choice she made. And hooray for Dame Judi Dench!
* The cinematography was lovely, with huge, sweeping images of (naturally) stormy moors, sunsets and thunderstorms as well as intimate closeups. The director chose wind and fire, light and darkness, as his primary images, and they were extremely effective in creating and sustaining the emotional currents of the film.
* The screenplay was wonderful. The dialogue between Jane and Rochester sparks with life, and the writer did a great job of balancing lengthy speeches with short, poetic phrases. “You transfix me quite.” Oh yes, Mr. Rochester!
* It was creepy, scary and suspenseful, elements of the book that can get lost when you’ve read the book four or five times or when you go into the movie knowing everything about it as most people do. It’s easy to forget that this is in essence a Gothic thriller, but this film does a good job of reminding us of that with eerie laughter, creaky floorboards and deep shadows.
* Why have I never before consciously noticed the similarities between “Jane Eyre” and the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast?” From the moment Jane is standing alone in the road and Rochester’s horse comes upon her — a lovely moment of suspense in this film — I felt it, and it carried through. Am I the only one who has missed this in all of my readings and viewings? Could this be one of the reasons I adore this novel so much, as “Beauty and the Beast” is my absolute favorite fairy tale of all time?
OK, that isn’t really a reason to recommend the film. But it did surprise me, and isn’t that the purpose of a remake, to bring out something new? Otherwise, why bother?
If you go, let me know what you think!