JANE EYRE (2011)


Release Date: 9th September 2011

Director: Cary Toji Fukanuga (True Detective (TV) / Sin Nombre)

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Romy Settbon-Moore, Amelia Clarkson, Holliday Grainger, Tamzin Merchant, Simon McBurney, Craig Roberts, Freya Parks, Jayne Wisener, Sophie Ward with Valentina Cervi and Sally Hawkins

Writer: Charlotte Bronte / Moira Buffini

Trailer: JANE EYRE

REVIEW BY MATT USHER aka JOE PESCI – or PLAIN SCARY down below on the moors…



One thought on “JANE EYRE (2011)

  1. JANE EYRE (2011) – review by Lord Blotchester aka Matt Usher

    I’ll try not to give anything away (even though you’ve all had about 160 years to familiarise yourselves with this one). The search for a good JANE EYRE film began in the 1940s. Is this one the classic we’ve all been waiting for? It certainly has an arresting beginning.

    This latest film of the book opens at a point some 320 pages into the novel, with Jane hurrying out from a dark, forbidding house, pursued by a quite incredibly wobbly film camera (steadicam wasn’t around in the nineteenth century), and fleeing to the moody moors, there to be rescued from starvation by Billy Elliot himself (Jamie Bell as an over-zealous vicar). It certainly makes for a moderately iconoclastic start, and it actually works pretty well, because it means that much of the film is told through a series of analepses (or flashbacks but I’m doing Eng Lit and have just studied Jane Eyre badly) which means that we trot swiftly and briefly through childhood and school, which means that Simon McBurney turns up to deliver approximately two lines and promptly steals the film. All that out of the way, Jane is soon swanning around in the shape of Mia Waskowska and we’re all set for romantic melodrama, slavery, misery and madness.

    If you don’t know, JANE EYRE is the story of a nineteenth century orphan foisted upon unloving distant relatives (notably Sally Hawkins as a kind of restrained wicked stepmother) who gets sent to school to become a governess, and then goes off to a forbidding house called Thornfield where she looks after the French ward of the mysterious Mr Rochester. Jane and Rochester fall in love but their marriage is thwarted by a problem in the loft. The film version is pretty faithful to the letter of the book (even though it jumbles the chronology a bit), and there’s a great deal going for it. But there are a few too many really big problems. Problem number one: the film seems to shrink and shirk at all the big moments, particularly if the mysterious Bertha is involved. This mystery should be a pretty big part of the narrative, but goes for little. For example, the bed burning incident (which is never explained in the film if I recall rightly) just seems to be ‘one of those things’ when it is actually a pivotal moment in terms of plot and character development. Here it just seems to be a small problem, like ejecting a large spider from the house. Problem number two: the director loves shots which involve candle-light and shadows. This is fine in itself (every candle seems to brood with menace), but there seems to be more care taken over this sort of thing than, you know, the script and the acting and stuff like that. Everything looks permanently atmospheric and impressive without actually quite being atmospheric and impressive. Problem number three: Michael Fassbender delivers a rather dull Rochester. He broods reasonably, but he does not convince as a man with a dubious past. There’s nothing much wrong with him (and I’ve been frightfully rude about him elsewhere so that’s actually relatively high praise) but he’s a tad too decent, too likeable. And his beard is just silly. Problem number four: Judi Dench is given too much to do, which is great if you’re a Judi Dench fan (and anyone who isn’t is clearly not a member of the human race) but she’s only playing the housekeeper – and not an important one like Mrs Danvers. They should have got someone like Brigit Forsyth. Problem number five: the book has an important minor character by the name of Grace Poole whose presence is a matter of some conjecture for Jane. She is almost completely absent (apart from one line ‘don’t go in there!’ or something like it) which helps to dilute the big attic-related mystery. Indeed, for someone coming to the film without prior knowledge, they would bee completely unaware that there even is a big attic-related mystery.

    Enough of this minutiae-induced carping! There are lots of good things after all. At the top of this list we find Mia Wasikowksa as Jane. I had doubts what with her being some of Polish-monickered American / Canadian / Aussie / foreigner coming over here and putting on a northern accent. But I was being foolish and provincial, for she is as Jane Eyre-like as you could wish for. Stubborn, intelligent, but a bit dim, and always keeping her own counsel, Wasikowska makes Jane an unusually believable nineteenth century heroine (by modern standards). There is good support lower down the cast list (particularly McBurney and Hawkins, but also the young Jane of Amelia Clarkson and the Helen Burns of Freya Parks), but the film-makers have (necessarily what with this being a film and not a series) cut a lot of characters into little more than glorified extras. (And we find the obligatory former The Bill regular stepping up to stop the wedding.) Fortunately, they very wisely didn’t do the Rochester-in-drag-as-a-gypsy bit which does the novel no favours. And the film is consistently beautiful looking, whilst cleverly avoiding falling into the trap of just being pretty and bonnet-encrusted.

    Ultimately it’s a handsome looking production, with a good music score and a modern feel. But although pretty much everything about it is pretty good, it’s just too tasteful, too sensible, and, despite all the candles, too anonymous: it feels like a film that has been made because it was time to make a JANE EYRE film again, rather than being a JANE EYRE film which needed to be made. It just manages to miss both the book’s essence and something which might have made it a distinctive film in its own right, and it just isn’t spooky enough. It’s a decent attempt, but the search for the definitive JANE EYRE film continues (personally I think there should have been one in about 1967 with say Alan Bates and Rita Tushingham but never mind).

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