Jane Eyre: A Dark Take on the Classic Tale
Jamie BellJudi Dench...
We won’t waste time with a summary of the universally known story of Jane
Eyre, but suffice to say that this is a gorgeous, haunting adaptation of
the classic novel.
The film opens up with Jane (Wasikowska) running across a windy moor,
sobbing wildly, clearly trying to escape something. She collapses outside a
house where the inhabitants find her and try to revive her. Flashbacks
recounting her story answer any questions that we may have about her; who she
is, what she was running from and why she ran.
This version of Jane Eyre takes a rather substantial amount of
time to really flesh out her back-story. We’re introduced to the aunt who never
wanted her and the cousin who bullied her. We then see the school that she was
sent to, whose teachers were nothing short of abusive to their students.
Witnessing what she went through is enough to make you marvel at the strength
of her spirit; how she was able to resist being indoctrinated into the popular
mould of the submissive piece of furniture that women were bred to be at the
Wasikowska plays Jane as a woman who, despite her young age and a
lifetime of misery, has so much respect for herself and an indomitable sense of
dignity that should have been obliterated, had her school been successful. She
managed to escape both her aunt’s house and her school with her dignity and
sense of self intact and she’d rather leave Rochester behind than be humiliated
at his hands. Wasikowska’s Jane is strong but never cold. She never once
conveys the impression that her decisions concerning Mr Rochester are easy for
her. You see the turmoil brewing behind her eyes, you feel her love for him
urging her to accept anything if she could just stay close to him.
Our first glimpse of Mr Rochester (Fassbender) reveals an ill-tempered,
insolent man. However, upon getting to know him we realize that he is a
tormented soul who’s all but given up on happiness. The way he interacts with
Jane during their first conversation shows just how desperate he is to talk to
someone. He needs anything to ease his mind and in futility turns to the
governess who slowly pulls him out of his funk. He ends up in an even worse
state when he falls in love with her and she leaves him. Fassbender’s Rochester
lie somewhere between passion and desperation; he’s desperate for happiness,
and yet he’s ready to deceive Jane and stomp over societal and religious
tradition to get it.
This film is just gorgeous. While Wasikowska’s beauty is seriously
downplayed in accordance with the book’s interpretation of Jane, this is more
than made up for by the film’s gorgeous palette of greys and purples. And as a
period piece, the set design is, naturally, stunning and runs the gamut from
the austerity of her school to the extravagance of her aunt’s home.
Jane Eyre has a wonderful script
that shines during the conversations between Jane and Mr Rochester. They have
the kind of smart, honest repartee that really does its part in fleshing out
the characters. As they keep saying, this is a meeting of the souls and the
fabulous script backs that up completely. In addition, despite being told
primarily in flashbacks, the film is very coherent and never confusing. It’s
very faithful to Charlotte Bronte’s classic without ever coming across as
boring. On the contrary; it’s thoroughly captivating.