I am a huge fan of Charlotte Bronte’s classic, Jane Eyre. Every time I pick it up to read again, I devour it in a couple long nights of dreamy passion. I become captivated by Bronte’s easy prose, Eyre’s beautiful frankness and Mr. Rochester’s grand passion for the woman he loves. Bronte is able to set a small love story (yet grand in the eyes of the two involved) in a beautiful gothic landscape and bring tones of passion and independence of women into the mix without it being heavy-handed. So when I saw that an adaptation of Jane Eyre with Michael Fassbender (super-duper hot man!) in the role of Mr. Rochester was lately added to Netflix Watch Instant, I immediately had to see it. I was not disappointed.
Jane Eyre is a plain, poor governess hired by Mr. Rochester by way of Mrs. Fairfax, his housekeeper, to teach his ward in a remote English manor. Eyre arrives at the house and settles into her routine of teaching a young girl who only knows French without meeting her master. She spends quiet days in the gardens of the manor with only the girl and Mrs. Fairfax as her companions. She yearns for adventure and romance but is stifled by the expectations put on women who are forced to make their own way in the world. Enter into this internal world, a presence that shakes everything up, Mr. Rochester. Rochester is a brooding, ugly (although Fassbender can never be ugly so he is only romantically ugly) man who lords over his manor in a gruff yet passionate way. Eyre and him dance around each other, feeling each other out and slowly falling in love with each other. But Rochester is hiding a secret in this ancient manor that keeps peeping its head out and throwing everything for a loop. As Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre reach the height of passion for each other, the secret thrusts its way out and messes everything up. Eyre must leave to protect her honor and her pride, but will she ever return to the only one she has and will ever love?
This movie expertly captured the essence of such a great love story. From the casting of Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in the two lead roles to the cinematography of this thunderous world around them, every choice is just right. Mia plays Jane as a stern yet caring person who wants nothing more than a full life. She infuses the character with an internal strength that lesser actresses would miss from the dialogue alone. While Fassbender takes a gloomy and stern man and makes him into a complex and ultimately idealistic guy. Each portrayal gives their characters a vulnerability that makes the story even more powerful. The cinematographer takes this complex love dance and manifests each twist and turn in the landscape surrounding them. In the opening scene, Jane Eyre throws herself out of Gateshead and into the vast unknown with a fervor that is reflected in the pale and washed out light and the barren openness of her destination. Every moment is framed by nature just like in the book.
The reason I enjoy the Jane Eyre story so much is because of the independence of the main character. In a time where academic curiosity, fervent independence and unconventional beauty in women were frowned upon, Jane Eyre stood out among the pack. Even Bronte’s sisters had strong female characters that were conventionally pretty. Wasikowska captures this fierce independent spirit and the strong desire to be free of the restraints of conventional society in literally every move she makes. She moves across the room with an eagerness and abruptness of this type of character. She sits and peers out at the camera piercing it with her wild spirit. She captures my heart just as much as she captures Rochester. Wasikowska was the perfect choice to play such a great character and she lived up to the challenge. If anyone doubted her acting abilities because they saw her in Alice in Wonderland (that movie was not her fault… she was completely misused and miscast in that role), look no further than this movie for proof that she is actually interesting and definitely worth your time.