When I first heard that Jane Eyre was going to be hitting the theaters I was pleased. Of all the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen novels, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte is among my favorites. I like how Jane demands a certain level of respect although she is poor and not very pretty, and isn’t supposed to cause any waves. It’s a classic “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” tale, which proves that there is indeed hope for any of us, even if we come from humble stock.
I was also pleased that Mia Wasikowska was chosen to play Jane Eyre. The character of Jane is actually a very young character, only 19, but as the times and Jane’s situation calls for she needs to behave as if she is older. Wasikowska was just 20 years old when filming of Jane Eyre began, the youngest ever to play the heroine in a total of seven adaptations of the classic tale. Most were in their mid to late 20s, perhaps to assure that the actresses could handle such an iconic role. But producers felt Wasikowska was up to the challenge, with roles such as Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and Joni from The Kids Are Alright, and a smaller role in Defiance in 2008.
The role of Jane is definitely her most demanding role to date, and Wasikowska holds her own. Upon first formally meeting Edward Rochester, the master of Thornfield Hall where she serves as a governess, he asks her, “What is your tale of woe? All governesses have them.” Jane claims she has none, but she does. She is an orphan who was taken in by her aunt, her mother’s sister-in-law, and spent the time on her aunt’s house tortured by her cousins and after she is sent to boarding school she suffered abuse there as well. Jane’s childhood predicament is shown through a series of flashbacks where Jane is played by Amelia Clarkson.
The film also stars Michael Fassbender as Edward Rochester, the mysterious master of Thornfield House, Dame Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper of Thornfield, Amelia Clarkson as young Jane, and Jamie Bell as St. John Rivers, a clergyman who helps Jane secure her post at Thornfield House.
Fassbender is quite convincing as Rochester, and does well with the pacing as begins to fall for Jane, and struggles to keep a desperate secret that could tear his world apart. When the secret finally comes to light, it is indeed devastating for both Jane and Rochester, and Jane returns to St. John Rivers looking for solace, and a different job. Rivers and his sisters treat Jane like family, and when Jane’s financial fortune changes, she includes them as adopted siblings, remembering their initial generosity. But this isn’t enough for St. John, who wants Jane to marry him. Jane refuses and leaves to go back to Thornfield House to be with Rochester, in spite of the difficult circumstances.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Jane Eyre, the performances as well as the scenery. My one complaint was that it seemed too rushed; there was just too much to cover in two hours. However this is a common issue for any novel adaptation. Being that it’s a classic made it a little more noticeable, but that’s just a good excuse to go back and read the book.