For those unaware, I’m a pretty avid reader. I’m not discriminatory either. I’m as happy reading comic books as I am Canterbury Tales. I am an absolute sucker for a good book, which means I am 10000000% here for any book-to-movie adaptations. I know the general consensus among fans is usually that the book is better, but I’ve always been able to appreciate the way the different mediums tackle the same story. Unless you can go full HBO and get an entire season per book, there’ll have to be major changes to adapt it for the silver screen (and even with an HBO sponsored season, many things will still have to be omitted or changed). I’ve got a soft spot for Victorian Literature, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is easily one of my favorite books of all time. Obviously, I’m going to have some feelings about any and all movie adaptations concerning it.
Jane Eyre has had both a television run and several movie adaptations. I don’t care for most of them apart from the 2011 version. Director Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation, True Detective Season 1, and screenplay writer for 2017’s It) heads up a heavy hitting cast that places Michael Fassbender in the role of Mr. Rochester and Mia Wasikowska in the role of Jane. It also has Judy Dench as Mrs. Fairfax, and I feel zero shame in saying that I’ll watch almost anything with Judy Dench in it. Thankfully, this film is quite good so it’s a pleasure.
Fassbender and Wasikowska are both in top form throughout. Obviously, we kind of expect this from Fassbender. He’s never been one to shy away from some heavy lifting in his roles. His turn as the protagonist in 2015’s Macbeth offers up further proof, if you need it. As for Wasikowska, well, if you’ve only seen her in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland films then you’re missing out.
The entire film is shot with natural lighting. It’s a little on the dark side in some of the nighttime scenes, true, but the candle lighting creates a hypnotic ambiance. If you’ve read my review for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night then you know I thoroughly enjoy details like this. It makes the movie feel less processed. Add to that the lack of any noticeable CGI and this is well off the beaten path of most cinematic fare.
As I mentioned, I’m a big fan of the book. I reread it recently for a class, which caused me to re-watch this film version of Jane Eyre. There’s a lot of attention to detail, and I like the care taken to visually represent some of the ideas that are hinted at in the book. For example, after Jane meets Mr. Rochester for the first time, there’s a scene that shows her walking back to her room. In the hallway, she stops and holds a candle up to a painting depicting a nude woman (I’m not sure what the actual painting is, but it’s got a Venus of Urbino vibe going on). I don’t think much explanation is needed to indicate the relationship between Jane’s curiosity in this painting and her recent conversation with Mr. Rochester. If you want more than what I’ve already said, you can just watch the movie. This scene, in my opinion, fits seamlessly into the film, is relatively subtle, and visually advances the narrative in a way that, while absent from the book, is perfect for the film.
Book to movie adaptations are a hit and miss breed. The Divergent series never even made it to the final film, while Harry Potter stayed strong through eight films. It (both versions), American Sniper, and The Lord of The Rings all managed to transition from book to film without inciting much ire among fans. Like I said, I’m always down to read a good book. If that good book also happens to have a good film then I’m on cloud nine.