sat 25/05/2024

DVD: Jane Eyre | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Jane Eyre

DVD: Jane Eyre

Remake of Brontë warhorse looks great, but lacks Gothic passion

Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre

In many respects it's hard to fault director Cary Fukunaga's take on the Charlotte Brontë classic. Fast-rising Australian actress Mia Wasikowska brings appropriate strength and moral clarity to the title role, while Michael Fassbender makes a mocking, sardonic Mr Rochester (albeit a rather too photogenic one).

The lovelessness of Jane's early years with her unfeeling aunt, Mrs Reed (Sally Hawkins), is wincingly drawn, and her time at the grim Lowood school leaves the viewer feeling as beaten and abused as the heroine herself.

Chuck in a quietly sparkling turn by Judi Dench as Mrs Fairfax, the housekeeper at Thornfield Hall, and a commendably pious performance by Jamie Bell as whiskery clergyman St John Rivers, and you're pretty much good to go. If there's a snag, it's that the production is almost too meticulous. Adriano Goldman's cinematography is exquisite, with panoramic shots of thunderstorms and moody sunsets over the Yorkshire moors as eloquent as any of the characters. His lighting of the interiors of various bleak stone houses with candles or oil lamps is so striking that it deflects your attention from what the actors are up to. It's as if you're being walked through a series of art installations rather than being involved in a story of emotional isolation, loss and longing. Attention to costumes, hair and decor - and even reasonably persuasive Yorkshire accents - is equally fastidious, but tends to airbrush the harshness and struggle of the characters' lives.

In case it seems perverse to blame Fukunaga for doing his work too well, I shall hail the way he has teased out Brontë's proto-feminist subtext, caught especially well in the scene where Jane gazes out across miles of rugged moorland and yearns to see what's happening in the world beyond the horizon. The Rochester-Jane interplay, too, is smartly caught, with Jane's stubborn tartness proving a match for Rochester's tetchiness and brusqueness. Yet Gothic passions, and the madness of the first Mrs Rochester, are sold short.

DVD extras include sound-bitey and generally ineffectual micro-featurettes on music, lighting and how much the cast-members admire one another and adore the director. Best of the bunch is Fukunaga's considered director's commentary, where he reflects on casting, the Yorkshire locations, the difficulties of compressing the richness of Brontë's novel into filmable shape, and the sheer time-consuming awkwardness of putting one's heroine through a succession of 19th-century ladies' costumes.

Watch the trailer to Jane Eyre

Mia Wasikowska brings strength and moral clarity to the title role, while Michael Fassbender makes a mocking, sardonic Mr Rochester


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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