Jane Eyre broke my heart.
This film took all my expectations, smashed them to pieces on the ground and gleefully ran around stomping on them while drinking from a bottle of port. I loved this movie. From the indescribably beautiful cinematography to the thoughtful direction and camera shots and even the way that the actors cried it was so massively Jane Eyre that it took me a while to be able to process my thoughts and put them down on paper - er, well, screen.
I've heard some people commenting on the fact that this film takes over its recent predecessor from 2006 in the light and airy department. It does, I admit, but the director plays with that color. As the film transitions from Jane's time at the manor to her childhood and even to the present teaching schoolchildren, there's an obvious lack of color, a grayish tone to even Jane herself. Her outfits even blend into her skin tone and her hair.
As you should know, Jane's misfortune starts at a young age, where she loses her parents to fever and is forced to move in with her aunt who detests her. After struggling to fit in with her cousins (played by Becoming Human's delightful Chris Roberts) and eventually giving up, Jane's aunt sends her away to reform school or finishing school where Jane makes friends finally only to lose her only one to illness. Cue tears. The child actors were as brilliant as their older counterparts. Eventually, Jane has to grow up and leave the school to be a governess in a distant, cold manor where there are banshees howling at night and fires being set in early morning.
Meeting Rochester is like for Jane, meeting her other fervent and impassioned self. In fact the only time we ever see her truly display emotion after losing her one and only friend is when she sits down and talks with him. Mia Wasikowska (of Alice in Wonderland and The Kids Are All Right) plays Jane with a subdued element of herself that many actress lack today. If it weren't for the clear fact that this film was about Jane Eyre, Wasikowska's character might have all but faded into the background. Despite being beautiful, she was able to play Jane plain which is a lot more than just allowing a less prettier actress devote herself to making Jane the central part of the film.
It's been said that Michael Fassbender (of Inglorious Basterds and 300) makes Rochester seem a lot less romance-character and a lot more abusive-husband material. I think, however, that that is Rochester. He never does outright say that he's a nice, gentlemanly person and it's even hinted that he knows he's not as he flirts around with other women and dangles the fact over Jane's head to make her submit to their attraction. Rochester is a tortured character and, in fact, a lot more real than the other two essential 19th century novels, Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights.
He begs for forgiveness because he knows he's wrong and to Fassbender's credit, he doesn't make Rochester seem like he's a good person at all. Fassbender's Rochester is intense and sly and only a step away from actually jumping Jane Eyre's bones, excuse my language. I've always thought that the essential three are actually not stories of love at all but stories of the malcontent of both the women and the men in their time. Rochester in the end has his payment for trying to marry another women while still married and it almost has him at peace, as if he's been waiting for some kind of punishment, like it's his fault that his wife is insane. He's the most damaged, flawed and yet still real male character I have ever seen.
Despite being damaged and flawed, Rochester still seems to be cut from the same cloth as most domestic abusers are and I hoped that the film would commit blasphemy and actually not let Jane Eyre marry at all. That she would return to the manor and greet Rochester with friendship. The book's ending is understandable. Although Jane was a proto-feminist, she still lived in the nineteenth century as did her author but the film would have been elevated if this Jane, this twenty-first century one, eventually moved. She had riches, status and land, all of which Rochester had lost and, yes, I understand that it was moving that Jane would still marry him but still ...
It's obvious by now that the film didn't go the way that most avid Bronteholics would have liked them to but I think that this is the best adaption of Charlotte Bronte's work yet. The others relied on the love story to provide most of the rapture of the spectators, forgetting that there are critics or even people who have never read Jane Eyre before seeing it. In fact, I'm sure many dates have gone to see this movie and although the essence of the book is still there, it seems like the majority would have enjoyed the film otherwise.
There is a sinister quality to the film that lent itself from the original Gothic novel, playing on the light sometimes unnoticeable music in the background and carefully fading away the richness of color when there was a certain emotion at play. Some might have said that the whole storm meet-and-leave factor was a little cliche but it was self-explainable to me. Grayness is what Jane feels like before she meets Rochester and after she has to leave; as if he's the one who sparks her passion and without it, she's gray, empty. She smiles but she's not really there.
In case you haven't noticed, I loved the film as a separate piece of art to the novel and whether or not you like Jane Eyre, I think the breathtaking cinematography is a reason to save yourself some grief from arguing with your girlfriend or wife and just go along with it. I mean, Judi Dench, Jamie Bell - just look at the rest of the casting. At least it has amazing acting right?
(And the child actor who plays Adele is the cutest thing since baby snowflakes.)