As some of you may or may not know, I was dying for Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Jane Eyre to be released on New Zealand’s big screens already. It was advertised that it would be out on the 15th of September.
I have been a huge lover of Jane Eyre ever since that first reading in my teenage years. I have seen several adaptations of the book – though not as many as I would have liked to see. And I don’t think I would be overstating anything if I were to say that I was utterly grateful and downright ecstatic to finally get the opportunity to see an adaptation of this beloved novel on the big screen.
The one thing that I can say, without a doubt, is that I was enthralled by the cinematography in this film. It is a visual feast for the eyes, with the rich colours, and stretching expanse of landscapes moving across the screen, not to mention the costumes and the setting itself. I don’t think Thornfield Hall has ever looked nicer in any adaptation. Thornfield in spring? Did you people see that? It all looked so fresh and green, it was almost as if I could feel the caress of the spring breeze, smell the newly formed buds, feel the prick of the green grass underfoot. It didn’t look dark and ominous, as most adaptations seem solely intent on making it appear, simply to emphasize the secret it hides. They seem to forget that Thornfield is supposed to be deceptive. Its grandeur does impress itself on Jane’s mind when she views the rooms and surroundings on her first morning there.
However, there was something about the film that didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I’m not entirely sure what it was. The acting, while wanting in some scenes, was actually very commendable for the most part of the film. Wasikowska definitely delivers on the subtlety front – her composure seems unbreakable, and yet you can see the mounting underplay of emotions. However, I did feel that she was a little lacking in regards to passion in the proposal scene. It seemed as if she was still managing to control a lot of her feelings, and though she says the right words, the tone doesn’t seem to indicate any rawness of emotions that is apparent in Jane’s dialogue in the novel. To me, Ruth Wilson’s performance in the 2006 BBC version is always foremost in my mind, whenever I think of the proposal scene. She’s like a burst dam; Rochester’s goading acts as the inevitable trigger and all her emotions and honesty just come pouring out. And perhaps while watching this film adaptation I was constantly comparing it with Wilson’s performance. However, even without that comparison it would not be difficult to notice the restraint that Wasikowska still seems to possess in that scene. I don’t mean to be harsh, but it felt as if, more than anything, Wasikowska was concentrating more on the accent than the acting itself.
Another aspect of her acting that I found to be utterly inexcusable was the in the scene in which she rouses Rochester from his burning bed. She makes a few trips to the water basin and douses the bed, and she is far too calm! She coughs a few times, and while there was urgency in her voice when attempting to wake Rochester, it vanishes when she actually tries to stop the fire. It is all the more evident when Fassbender wakes up and plays the part of a truly panicked Rochester. The contrast only emphasized (painfully, for me) the utter composure Wasikowska possessed in that scene. I honestly can’t believe that Fukunaga let it go.
However, despite all the satisfactory acting and impressive setting, upon leaving the cinema I couldn’t help but a feel a twinge of…I don’t want to say disappointment. Because it wasn’t that. But it was definitely a feeling of not having been impressed by the movie itself. I felt that Fukunaga hadn’t really brought anything new to the already numerous adaptations of Jane Eyre. Yes, he presented the story in a different manner; yes it’s a bit dark and gothic, but then so was the 2006 version. I felt that the only truly outstanding aspects were the cinematography, setting and the music. I was able to appreciate that it is a 2 hour film – a film which condensed things quite admirably and with a certain aplomb, I thought – and not everything could be covered with depth in anyway similar to the book. But there was just that something that seemed to evade me throughout the whole film. I had been utterly ecstatic when I went in, just barely able to repress my squeals, and walking out I felt slightly deflated. Not completely disappointed, mind you, but just with the feeling that I hadn’t been impressed as I thought I was going to be.
Acting: The scene following the revelation of Bertha Mason, when Rochester begs Jane to say. It was utterly captivating. The acting from both Wasikowska and Fassbender was perfect. The lines have been changed, shortened considerably from that of the book, but even with what little they had to work with, the two leads do a superb job of portraying the raw emotion that is evident in the novel. I am not generally a weeper, but I think if I was I would have been bawling my eyes out in this particular scene. It was excellent!
Cinematography: The scenes of Jane’s little house on the moors when she becomes a teacher after leaving Thornfield: Wow! They were amazing. I loved the little dwelling set against the backdrop of the over-arching sky – especially the scenes at night, under the snow. I wanted to be there!
Final verdict: Skimming over this, it appears as if I didn’t like the film. Which is not the case at all. I did. And when it comes out on DVD here, I’m going to run off and purchase it and won’t stop hyperventilating until it’s in my greedy little hands. More likely the hyperventilating will increase. I think it was a case of great expectations – from all the rave reviews I was expecting too much, but Fukunaga does do an impressive job – that can’t be denied. And I would have to say it is my favorite film adaptation. The Hurt & Gainsborough version cannot hold a candle, let alone a torch, to this one in my opinion. I would definitely recommend any Bronte lover, or every any lit lover for that matter, to go see the film. It is definitely worth your while.