Jane Eyre is an adaption of Charlotte Bronte’s popular classic novel by the same name. It centres on a plain governess, Jane Eyre, who seeks employment at the gothic Thornfield Hall. There she meets the mysterious and moody master Mr Rochester…
How do you condense a complex novel into a film that runs for 120 minutes? What do you include and what do you leave out? Which characters do you develop more than others?
This novel is up there on the highest period drama pedestal, in my opinion, along with Pride & Prejudice and North & South. My favourite adaptions of those stories are the mini-series versions. So when going to see this 2011 adaption of Jane Eyre, I was very curious to see whether I could finally bring myself to say I preferred a feature length film adaption of one of my favourite novels.
So where shall I begin? How about the beginning of the movie, which is actually the middle of the book. *sigh*
What made this adaption different from previous adaptions is the structure of the movie. It has a series of flashbacks to earlier times in the story. I can understand why this was done, to condense a complex story into a feature-length film. Unfortunately this didn’t work for me. It made the story feel disjointed and it didn’t flow. It was still rushed and fast. The flashbacks did not make up for bad character development either. It was like an adaption of a Jane Eyre bullet point summary rather than Charlotte Bronte’s beloved novel. I tried to push my knowledge of the novel to the back of my mind when I was watching this, as it didn’t translate onto the big screen.
The best way to describe this movie in my opinion, is adequate but not breathtaking. Actually the soundtrack was breathtaking thanks to Dario Marianelli, but the film itself lacked something (even with that magical soundtrack!). Overall it’s enjoyable and I wouldn’t want to dissuade an avid period-drama lover from watching this. I admit, I own this movie. Yes, I went out and bought it and I have watched it a few times. But, I feel a lot was missing and it could have been a lot better. If I hadn’t read the book, if I didn’t know the story, if I hadn’t watched the other adaptions and if I wasn’t so in love with the novel then maybe I would have given rave reviews as many have. I can rave about the soundtrack, sure, but not the film. I fell in love with the soundtrack, not the film.
The cinematography was lovely, the costumes well made. And Mia did look like a Jane Eyre. Aesthetically the use of natural lighting did help create a ‘gothic’ look. St John Rivers & his family were not developed enough either. Perhaps that’s what went wrong. Yes, it’s got the soundtrack and the aesthetics. But what about the story? I wanted to see that developed more. If you’re thinking of watching this and haven’t read the book, I think you’ll enjoy reading the book more than watching this as the ‘story’ of Jane Eyre.
The Chemistry between Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre) And Michael Fassbender (Mr. Rochester) I felt was a bit forced. The pivotal scene that was the final nail in the coffin for me was when Jane professes her love for Rochester. It was like she was reading the lines from a book or a script. I didn’t feel he breathed life into that scene. I didn’t feel the passion or conviction. This is a big deal for me, because that scene is so important.
And what happened at the end? It just ended. I was a bit shocked. Did anyone else feel that way? I wish they could have included a wedding or suggested that Rochester’s vision improves later. This ending made me just feel sad and unresolved and haunted by Marianelli’s eerie score.
Deserving of mention are Sally Hawkins & Judi Dench who played Mrs Reed & Mrs Fairfax. Even though they played relatively minor roles, they were very believable in those roles. Michael Fassbender acted well as Mr. Rochester, but I feel he could have been more broody. Mia was an ok Jane, but I think failed to push her emotions through.
Anyway my final thought is why bother remaking Jane Eyre again after the 2006 adaption, which is quite perfect. Why not focus on other classic stories that need to be re-made like Wuthering Heights or Persuasion? What did you think of this adaptions? Share below.