When I first saw this film at the cinema, I was confused. It begins halfway through the story, with an anguished Jane running away from Thornfield Hall and on to the moor, where she is taken in by the curate St John Rivers and his sisters. The first half of the plot then takes the form of a flashback to Jane’s childhood and her time as a governess. I thought this was an interesting angle on the story because it emphasises the effect that Jane’s past has on her present state of mind. It also gives St John more presence, bringing to centre stage Jane’s conflict between her passion for the flawed Mr Rochester and her brotherly affection for the earnest St John.
I’m guessing you probably have an idea of what Jane Eyre is about, even if you haven’t read the book. In one sense it’s a coming of age story, in another sense it’s a romance, and in yet another sense it’s a criticism of society’s treatment of women. A screen adaptation will tend to focus on the romantic tension between Jane and her employer Mr Rochester.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga with a screenplay by Moira Buffini, this film perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel. Dare I say, it’s even better than the 2006 BBC TV series. The only noticeable omission from the book is the servant Grace Poole. In the film, she is mentioned in passing and has no significance, whereas in the book she is a frightening figure whom Jane thinks is responsible for some creepy goings-on, when actually Grace is guarding… you know who. I also find that the latter’s back-story is skimmed over.
I loved the actors in this film, especially Mia Wasikowska as Jane, Michael Fassbender as Mr Rochester, Judi Dench as the housekeeper Mrs Fairfax and Jamie Bell as St John Rivers. The music by Dario Marianelli is beautiful.
I think the author would have been most impressed.
Image taken from BBC iPlayer.