Do not miss the new Jane Eyre. Even if you've seen as many versions as I have (that's many, maybe all available on DVD -- see On Never Tiring of Jane Eyre). And even if you've not seen that many -- Jane Eyre, 2011. The director (Cary Fukunaga) knows how many times this film has been made. And he manages surprises: : it begins with Jane's flight from Rochester & works its way back there 3/4s of the way through.
Mia Wasikowsa as Jane fleeing Rochester: near opening of film
He really gets the violence of the book into the film. He doesn't mince injustice and when a slap happens or beating you are allowed to feel at least the first blow. After a while you begin to feel suspense and can be startled. He relies to some extent on your having gone before: so he offers epitomizing scenes. I wept at the last. It really was a minimal short version of all those long final poignant reunions -- complete with one version of the typical wry witticism of Jane. It was not so much a scene as an allusion to a scene he would have done had he had the time. But what is offered is often done top-notch with total seriousness.
The biggest surprise was the build up of Rivers (Jamie Bell): the actor got second billing or third.
Jamie Bell as Rivers part of the presiding spirit over the flashback mode in which the story is unravelled
Picture it: the film begins with Jane running away; after each flashback (some long, some short), we come back to Jane and Rivers. It's with Rivers and his sisters at dinner and during Rivers' proposal Jane utters her (not very) feminist talk. The audience appeared usually not to have read the book. They responded to some of the lines as new (different ones were chosen than used to be -- this is like the recent Austen adaptations). There were gasps as if someone was surprised at a literal turn of events. So this will be Jane Eyre for this generation (or 5 years). I did think the audience was led to take the Bronte view of Rivers: wrong for Jane but religion as a topic was marginalized and instead we were in a three way triangle.
As in the Jane Eyre most recently (screenplay, Sandy Welch, director Susannah White, BBC mini-series, with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson) an attempt was made to make Bertha less a monster, but the language used was the condemning misogynistic type of the book.
The family group was emphasized in White's production
Flashbacks within flashbacks (but curious, no voice-over that I can remember); gothic archetypal scenes that top what you have usually seen. Money spent. Use of exciting zoom in and out shots, framings. Shameless use of vatic language -- the actors had a problem here.
So we come to flaws: There just isn't the time to build that central relationship of depth interaction between Rochester and Jane that is the core of the best movies found in the 1973 [written by Robin Chapter, with Michael Jayston, Sorah Cusack as Rochester and Jane); perhaps the best at this development is the long mini-series, the 1983 Jane Eyre (screenplay Alexander Baron, Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke as Rochester and Jane)
Timothy Dalton giving Zelah Clarke only minimal wages so that she will return to Thornfield after visiting Reed Hall
-- and somehow reached by Hinds and Morton in their brilliant acting of Jane and Rochester (1997, a movie intended for cinema, Robert Young directed) in their short film.
Ciarhan Hinds confiding vulnerable feelings to Samantha Morton
But the male actor was up to it as William Hurt (1996, Zeffirelli directing, Charlotte Gainsbourg Jane) was not; Hurt was so embarrassed by the role he didn't know what to do ... ) It helped he is not famous (Michael Fassbender). I didn't know his name. He is not handsome. Ma Wasikowsa looked the role. I've seen her before but my 20ish year old daughter (she has read the book), Izzy assured me Wasikowsa is not well known, not "famous" as famous.
Fassbender in a typically withdrawn vehement moment
As in a couple of these commercial films Mrs Fairfax is made far more central, and given knowledge and made part of a penultimate scene she has not in the book? I've wondered if this is sop to something conventional: a pro-family note. Judi Dench tried her best, but the role is thankless and seemed wasting time (and time was so precious) -- the director over built it because it was her I thought.
Judi Dench as Mrs Fairfax: she did look too old for the role, but did it well.
They omitted Miss Temple -- well she was there, but given no lines and hardly a presence. Now it is true that the probability is such a good woman who not be or stay like that at Lowood, but it is a loss. She too is often omitted in the film theatre commercial films. (Telling I think -- Amanda Root was given the part in the Susannah White recent mini-series JE.) Lowood was foreshortened too. There was Helen and she died but it took less than 5 minutes and the stress was the cruel humiliating punishment and Jane's being carried away: not the deaths from typhus. They cut back on the Ingram (Imogen Poots -- this was a part BBC clique product): Izzy said to a modern woman or girl it is ugly that he teases Jane and it would make him look awful, that's why. But I saw a cutting back on women full stop. The could not omit Mrs Reed and Sally Hawkins who is a marvelous actress was there as Mrs Reed. She is skinny enough to be heroines still and there she was the dragon lady. She was not given enough screen time though. So my comment on the build up of Mrs Fairfax is it was a choice from priorities. Dench is a box-office star.
Basically, the feel is an elimination of women. Rivers' Diana not there; his sisters ciphers -- even though the screenplay is by a woman: Moira Buffini. It's not just a stripped down Jane; it's a hollowed out one for a triangle of Jane and Rochester, Jane and Rivers
Well, my daughter and I mean to go again if it comes to us in our area. So you see we liked it :) She did look mesmerized A young graduate student friend in English and his (his) friends went -- were at the same showing! I do not live in a small town (this was a DC theater, an art-y one). The theater was nearly full. Nearly all seats taken.