“What? They made another movie of that book that we had to read for GCSE. Why would they do that?”
This is perhaps the attitude of many movie-goers and TV viewers who are annually subjected to endless remakes of classics by Dickens, Austin and the Brontë gang. Well, of course: these authors are literary titans and national treasures; their works deserve to live on in memory. But seriously, the British film and TV industry has a terminal obsession with horses and corsets that manifests itself in the dozens of period dramas produced every year.
Having dug ourselves into a hole, it must be admitted that Cary Fukunaga’s film adaptation of Jane Eyre is actually very good. Starring Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Michael Fassbender (every movie from 2011), the production is a lush affair that simply oozes atmosphere. Wasikowska’s leading performance is subtle, yet clear in demonstrating a woman meek in poise but strong in resolve. Fassbender –continuing his string of fine work—plays the brooding and seemingly cruel Rochester perfectly, creating tension from thin air in his scenes with Jane. On the level of a romance film, it works exquisitely thanks to the palpable tension between them. Fans of modern romances like Twilight will have much to enjoy in Jane Eyre
In fact, on a surface level, Jane Eyre and the vampire saga have much in common: they both tell the story of a young woman displaced into an unfamiliar and slightly menacing environment. Once there, they both encounter a handsome and mysteriously brooding man. Though at first they find him rude and distant, in time they discover that he is indeed infatuated with them and hiding a terrible secret. But whereas Brontë’s heroine is a self-possessed woman who is determined to be subservient to no man, Twilight’s Bella is a girl defined entirely by her obsession with a boy. It’s utterly baffling how a 160 year-old story is more progressively feminist than something concocted five years ago.
And surely, that’s what makes Jane Eyre such a timeless story. Jane is born into a man’s world but she stands by her convictions in the face of adversity, which results in her finding not only love, but the reciprocated love of someone that considers her an equal.
Bolstered by a great supporting cast that includes Jamie Bell and Dame Judi Dench, Jane Eyre is a tight and compelling piece of film making. It’s a movie that’s strangely appropriately for the entire family and, who knows, it could come in useful if you’re revising for your exams.