“Jane Eyre” by Caitlin McGrane

Posted on October 7, 2011


Last weekend, I decided to get my spinster on and go to the movies by myself. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a dark room full of strangers watching a film, knowing you can lose yourself in it (and a bag of malteasers) without being interrupted by a companion (N.B.: for my opinions on Cinema Etiquette, please see Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo of BBC Radio Five Live’s ‘Cinema Code of Conduct).

Jane Eyre has long been interesting to me. When I was 15, we studied it in Drama and performed an adaptation. We saw the adaptation professionally performed at a theatre in Oxford and I distinctly remember being blown away by the symmetry of Bertha and Jane each having their passionate characters denied to them. As such, my expectations upon seeing the latest film adaptation, starring Australian Mia Wasikowska and the gorgeous Michael Fassbender, were pretty high. Wasikowska was the best thing about Tim Burton’s otherwise disappointing Alice in Wonderland last year and Mr Fassbender can do no wrong in my eyes (even if he does play a creep in Fish Tank).

The power that is FASSBENDER.

The film opens with Jane running from Thornfield, and Rochester, out onto the stormy moors of England’s North East, or Bronte-country as it is commonly known. It is pure cinematography, and Wasikowska portrays Jane’s heartbreak with aplomb. Broken, practically at death’s door, she is taken in by the oddly-named St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell) and his sisters, who set her up as a teacher. The film then goes back to the beginning, to Jane’s childhood with her contemptible aunt (Sally Hawkins), and utterly vile cousin John (Craig Roberts, who is marvellously awkward in Richard Ayoade’s Submarine). The film, I feel, stumbles over the subtle implications in the book of locking Jane away for being too passionate at an age when she would be hitting puberty, and almost skips over the horror of the Red Room being the very same room in which her Uncle died. The filmmaker’s intention, I imagine, is to move speedily to the point at which she meets Rochester, when the real drama can begin. Jane’s experiences at the dreadful Lowood school are concisely- and well-explored, and Jane’s proto-feminism begins to develop as she learns to accept her (rather dismal) fate with serenity.

Which brings me to what I love so much about this film: Jane. She is one of my favourite heroines in literature, or film. There is a scene in which Jane and Rochester sit beside a fire together, and Jane surprises him by saying she has “no tale of woe” (despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary). She refuses to feel sorry for herself; refuses to be rescued, or to be defeated by any obstacles. Wasikowska and Fassbender have fantastic chemistry as two characters who converse without really communicating. The film relies on them to carry the potential for their characters’ romance to blossom. It is all down to a raised eyebrow here, or a whisper there.

Mia Wasikowska cannot withstand the power of FASSBENDER.

I shan’t ruin the twists and turns of this wonderful story, translated into a beautiful film (literally, I’ve been to the North East of England and they’ve managed to make somewhere so bleak look pretty damned attractive). Suffice to say that [director] Cary Fukunaga has done a fantastic job, along with a brilliant cast. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned Judi Dench until now, but she is rather witty as the foolish but well-meaning housekeeper Mrs Fairfax. Go and see this film, it’s a bit weepy, but I rather enjoyed it.

Then again, I am a spinster.

What do you think of Jane Eyre? What do you think of FASSBENDER? Are you a fan of a good bit of Bonnet Fodder? Comments, y’all! 

For more of the mighty FASSBENDER’S work, check out YDE’s review of “X-Men: First Class—Michael Fassbender Tears It Up”.

Posted in: Movies