Mia Wasikowska Is Terrific in an Absorbing Version of a Classic
Starring Mia Wasikowka (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds, Fish Tank) and directed by Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre), Jane Eyre (2011) is one of the best of the many screen adaptations of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel. In important supporting roles, the new film has Jamie Bell and Judi Dench.
The story is set in rural England circa 1840. Jane Eyre (Wasikowka) is an orphan who has a miserable childhood, but at age 18 takes a job as governess at Thornfield, an isolated country estate. There she is welcomed by the friendly housekeeper (Dench), and later Jane meets the estate's brooding owner, Edgar Rochester (Fassbender). As mysterious things occur at Thornfield, Jane and Rochester get into a romantic relationship. But Jane is shocked to discover that Rochester harbors an appalling secret, and she flees alone across the moors. However, she has the good fortune to be taken in by a kindly young clergyman (Bell) and his sisters.
The movie tells the same story as the novel, but Brontë's narrative structure is drastically altered: the film relates almost the entire tale in flashback and focuses more on the relationship between Jane and Rochester, abridging the book's other parts. In terms of visuals, music and sound effects, this is very much a 21st-century movie, although its dialogue has a formality somewhat like the novel's. The film's settings are visually arresting and the naturalistic acting is convincing throughout, allowing viewers to become immersed in a timeless romantic drama.
The Jane Eyre DVD provides an audio commentary by director Cary Fukunaga, who mainly discusses technical aspects of making the film. He says they shot mostly in Derbyshire, about three hours out of London. He identifies some of the locations, including Haddon Hall, the finest surviving medieval manor house. He is hilarious when he imitates Orson Welles calling the name of the title character in the 1943 adaptation of Jane Eyre. And in mentioning that he chose to omit the novel's epilogue-like final chapter, he quotes the book's best-known sentence: "Reader, I married him."
The DVD contains nine deleted scenes with a total runtime of almost 17 minutes. In "Badminton in the Garden," we learn more about the little French-speaking girl said to be Rochester's ward. Another interesting deleted scene — a scene which seems significant in the novel — is "Bertha Rips Wedding Veil in Jane's Room." It's unclear why Fukunaga deleted these scenes, but it seems likely he did it as part of his grand scheme to tailor the story to 21st-century sensibilities.
There are also three short featurettes on the DVD that run a total of less than eight minutes. "A Look Inside Jane Eyre" is a promo-like featurette where Fukunaga, Wasikowska and others talk about the movie and clips are shown. In "To Score Jane Eyre," Fukunaga discusses composer Dario Marianelli's music for the movie. "The Mysterious Light of Jane Eyre" has cinematographer Adriano Goldman talking about lighting techniques he used to set the film's tone.
DVD Release Date: August 16, 2011
Feature Film Runtime: 2 hours 0 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Some Thematic Elements Including a Nude Image and Brief Violent Content