Jane Eyre 2011

Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender

"I must beg of you to please come here, Miss Governess" -Mr. Rochester

"Awaken then." -Jane

This version is a complete and refreshing surprise. Judging from the trailer, I thought it would be melodramatic in the extreme with an emphasis on the darker Gothic elements, but nothing could be further from the truth. The set design, lighting, and camera choices could be seen as dark, but they are also realistic to the times and what seems to be the vision of the director, Cary Fukunaga. Which appears to be to present the story of Jane as she lived it, completely tuned in to her thoughts and feelings. A very refreshing idea. Many versions have added or filmed sequences of the story in which Jane did not participate- for example, Thornfield burning down or scenes between Blanche and Rochester, but the story stays with Jane practically the whole way through, with camera angles highlighting that the audience is experiencing everything through Jane. This really changed the experience of viewing the movie- it felt real and not like a spectacle.

The script helps alot in this, it condenses the story but stays true to every part of it. Even with the narrative structure changed, it still hit all the important scenes, and stayed true to even the lesser characters in the story. It is surprising what scenes are not included in the movie- for instance the tearing of the veil- so that the focus of the story is more on Jane and Rochester's relationship but even with that the more Gothic elements are not completely marginalized. There is still a sense of things not being quite right.

Mia Wasikowska as Jane is excellent; strong and intelligent, and fantastic at conveying her inner emotions through body language. One of the many things I loved in this version are all the shots of Jane walking/pacing restlessly. Mia somehow conveys that there is "a vivid, restless, resolute captive" inside of her. Michael Fassbender is commanding and sardonic and tender and teasing, sometimes all at once and sometimes flipping between the emotions at will- quite amazing to watch. He can be so intense that you are a little afraid of him and then so pleading and desperate that your heart breaks for him.

The movie was understated and simple and more powerfully emotional because of it. Personally, this would be my second favorite adaptation after the 1973 mini-series. Despite the inevitable condensing of the story, and an ending that felt a bit abrupt, it was so refreshing to watch a version that did not overplay the story and kept the focus on Jane.