Friday, October 7, 2011

Jane Eyre (2011)

As readers of this blog know, I am more than slightly obsessed with all things Bronte. One of my particular obsessions is watching all movie and TV versions of Jane Eyre. One of my fondest memories is watching the 1983 TV version of Jane Eyre starring Timothy Dalton as Mr. Rochester with my best friend Jenn while we were in high school. Even to us teenagers in the 1990’s the 1983 version was dated with poor background scenery and some rather bad dialogue. Even now, if one of us says, “She is a strapper, a REAL strapper,” it’s enough to send me into a fit of laughter.

It is always interesting to me how Jane Eyre is adapted from a beloved novel to the big (or small) screen. Some versions are excellent (2006 mini-series), while others are rather lacking (1983 mini-series). I am happy to say that I thought the 2011 version of Jane Eyre was one of the better productions – I loved it!

This version of Jane Eyre starred Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester. I have never seen the movies they are famed for (Alice in Wonderland and Inglourious Basterds respectively), but their superb acting in this movie makes me want to go and watch all of the other movies that they have been in. Wasikowska and Fassbender were both excellent leads with superb chemistry. You could almost feel it cackling off of the screen, particularly during a snowstorm scene where Mr. Rochester swooped into the room and swept Jane into his arms. This may have only been a figment of Jane’s imagination and not in the original novel, but it was highly romantic and a great addition. Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?

Judi Dench was also fantastic as Mrs. Fairfax. It was the best portrayal of that character that I’ve seen. I thought she really humanized the character into more than a cliche.

I thought the screenplay had an interesting framing of the story. It started at the middle of the novel with Jane’s flight from Thornfield and subsequent refuge at the Rivers’ home. I’m glad the Rivers were included as the second half of the novel has been left out of a lot of productions. This framing makes the story rather dramatic and mysterious if you don’t know the story of Jane’s flight. One negative though is that it makes the story seem as a romance between St. John and Jane as we know them together with some spark between them (at least on St. John’s end) before Mr. Rochester is introduced.

I particularly loved the lighting of this movie. It was eerie with the lights going dim at night with just the small light from a candle. It seemed more like the lighting would have been at the time and I loved the gothic feel. I also loved the sweeping music, it was beautiful. I need to look for the soundtrack!

The Lowood School scenes in this movie made me sad as they always do. I find that part of the novel heart wrenching, particularly because Charlotte Bronte and her poor sisters lived through a similarly dreary school experience that ended with the deaths of her older sisters Elizabeth and Maria.

I thought the romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester seemed sudden in the movie. This is probably due to the lack of time for build-up (it is a rather large novel). I enjoy the build-up of love in a longer mini-series. Some of my favorite scenes also didn’t make it into the movie (also probably due to time constraints) including Rochester’s turn as a gypsy, Jane’s torn wedding veil, and the very end of the novel “Reader, I married him.”

Overall though, the filmmakers succeeded in making a gothic, romantic version of Jane Eyre in the time constraints of a movie. I loved the leads and need to purchase this movie so I can watch it again . . . and again!

Have you seen this version of Jane Eyre yet? What did you think? Make sure to let me know in your comments. I loved Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester, but there have been many good Rochesters over the years. Vote on your favorite Mr. Rochester in my poll on the sidebar. We’ll have a Mr. Rochester discussion about the results next month – but you can also voice your opinion in the comments on this post.

Speaking of polls, I’ve also added one about the “All About the Brontes” Challenge. I hosted it in 2010 and I’m thinking about bringing it back for 2012. Would you be interested in joining it again? What can be done to improve it? Or should I try something different, but related such as a “Gothic” challenge, women of suspense challenge, Victorian Literature, or 19th century authors challenge? Vote on the poll and let me know your thoughts in the comments on this post!

DVD Source: The Kewaunee Public Library


  1. I wholeheartedly agree that this is definitely one of the better cinematic adaptions of the book. Ever since the 2006 miniseries, I'd been hoping that someone would have another go at making a major motion picture out of it. I, like you, was much disappointed that Rochester's cross-dressing gypsy scene was excluded but, alas, you can't get everything. Still a fantastic film and you sum it up wonderfully!

  2. Laura, I have not seen this movie yet but having read your review, I probably will see it soon. You do sum it up very well. It sounds spectacular.

    As for your Brontes challenge it was great last time and I can't really think of anything that could be improved. (I had a lot of fun learning that the Bronte sisters were poets as well as writers.)

  3. I really enjoyed this version when I saw it too!

  4. I have to disagree with you on this one. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed it . . . somewhat. But I was not that impressed by the chemistry between Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. Give me Timothy Dalton and Zeulah Clarke anytime. Sorry. Mind you, Wasikowska and Fassbender had their moments . . . especially in the movie's second half. Also, Wasikowska seemed a bit too bland at times. Other times, she was just fine. And in the movie's first half, Fassbender seemed bent upon portraying Rochester as an introvert. And Rochester has never struck me as that type of person.

    I didn't mind the director using Jane's history with the Reeds, at Lowood and at Thornfield Hall as flashbacks. But the last flashback - from her last days as a teacher at Lowood to her departure from Thornfield seemed a bit too long.

    I liked the movie, but I didn't love it.