Sunday, October 9, 2011

Jane Eyre (2011)

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My dad pre-ordered Jane Eyre (2011) for my birthday and I watched it with my family almost as soon as it arrived in August. It's taken me a while to get around to reviewing it because the story's interest has rather worn out for me. But this is a very beautifully done film and this is much to interest the viewer.

Note: This review will contain some spoilers because I assume that most of my readers will already know this classic tale. So if you don't wish to know the story line and ending you can skip to the My Recommendations part at the end.

Jane Eyre disciplined by Aunt Reed
Story: When orphaned governess Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) arrives at imposing Thornfield Hall, she's intrigued by her brooding wealthy employer, Rochester (Michael Fassbender). His dark moods and the strange occurrences in the house lead her to discover a terrible secret that he had hoped to hide from her forever. - from

Young Jane Eyre and Mr. Brocklehurst
Script: The story is fairly faithful to the nature of Charlotte Bronte's original work but I'm unsure of whether she would have approved of their treatment of her most popular work. The film is written in a series of flashbacks. In the first scene we see Jane running from Thornfield Hall (which takes place at least half way through the book) and it isn't until she's wandered on the moors and found safety at the Rivers' house that we begin to see bits of her harsh childhood as though they were mere memories. Her time at Thornfield Hall is also shown as a longer flashback mingled with scenes of where Jane is "now" taking a teaching position offered by St.John Rivers. A lot of the original dialog has been either cut out or reinvented.  Some of Jane Eyre's private thoughts are expressed verbally to various characters.

Mr. Rochester and Jane at Thornfield Hall
Scenes: Dark and dreary for the most part, twinged with earthy shades of brown and beige instead of the traditional black and gray, evening scenes have a golden light to them. Sets are filled with great props and details, sometimes almost too many things are cluttered around. Thornfield Hall is rather amazing with all of it's grandeur and spaciousness but still dark and mysterious. There is a wildness about the outdoor scenes and a winter just turning to spring feel as well which adds to the romanticism and idea of hope dying and then springing new.

Jane Eyre - newly made
Costumes: Although I'm not that knowledgeable about early Victorian costumes they did seem to suit the time era with lower waists on the gowns, tighter corseted bodices and lovely tucking details to the sleeves and bodices. All of Jane's gowns have a homespun feel to them and are in plain but respectable prints of black, gray and eventually brown. Her hairstyles are plain but very interesting and unfortunately not terrible becoming to the actress' face. I find Mr. Rochester's vests and hats a bit fanciful but they are I suppose suited to his wealth and station. Other characters are dressed according to their status. The one outfit I was very disappointed with was Jane's last outfit which is rather too fine for her, even though it's after her new found wealth has been discovered, it just doesn't suit her personality very well.  

Jane Eyre at Thornfield Hall
Music: The soundtrack was composed by Dario Marianelli the same talented gentleman who composed the beautiful Pride & Prejudice Soundtrack for Pride & Prejudice (2005). The tracks are completely period and use the sometimes heart-wrenching but amazing music to add to what Jane is feeling and the atmosphere of scenes throughout the film. On the DVD there is a lovely extras interview with the director and composer where they explain that the exquisite violin music is specifically to represents the caged bird within Jane Eyre's soul and what joy when that bird is released and her spirits fly high! I'm really hoping to add this soundtrack to my collection some day!

Music Video: A selection from the official soundtrack, no photos.

This is a selection from the Official Jane Eyre Soundtrack. This is my favorite track called "Yes!" which is a very happy moment for Jane and the violin here is used to represents her inner feelings soaring. Video not owned by me but was uploaded by YouTube user MistressFreya.

Cast of Jane Eyre (2011)
Actors In Their Roles: An all-star cast of up-and-coming actors fills the well known roles. This is one reason why I wanted to see this film and followed it's filming progress with interest.
  • Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Reed - I was sure that the lady who had once played heroine Anne Elliot of Jane Austen's Persuasion would not be convincing in the role as Jane's rich and mean aunt - and I was right. I'm sorry to say that Sally Hawkins is too "pretty" to be Mrs. Reed and too affected in her speech to be believed. 
  • Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax - Although I adore Dame Judi in her many acting roles I'm still uncertain about her portrayal of this character and indeed the casting of her in this role. She is of course very capable but to my eyes more suited to the fine lady of a country house than to a hardworking housekeeper. She puts on a bit of a northern England accent which is fine, but when she says some of her lines you can tell that it's not a careworn housekeeper you're watching but an actress who has an infectious sense of humor underneath.
  • Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre - I'd never seen Mia in a film before but I have been impressed because her talent has been raved about by so many. Her performance was not disappointing just different in some ways from what I had read of the character. Mia holds the character very well and captures the emotional depth, strength of character and intelligence which Jane Eyre possesses. She really is a little bit of a young woman but with such great talent that translates well to the character. Unfortunately the copper hair they gave her was not very becoming and her facial features don't say "Jane Eyre" to me. Not my favorite Jane Eyre but the actress has a wealth of talent! 
  • Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester - I had only seen Michael in one other film and although he's talented I didn't really like him that much and again in this role he was talented with a lot to like but I didn't really like him. By casting Michael Fassbender they chose a face that is similar to the description of "not handsome" which Jane gives in the book but his rather slight frame and facial features don't resemble Charlotte Bronte's description of Mr. Rochester. 
  • Imogen Poots as Blanche Ingram - When the news of a true-to-the-book dark haired Blanche Ingram reached most fans they were quite elated by the news. Having enjoyed Imogen Poot in Miss Austen Regrets I looked forward to her portrayal of this character and was only slightly disappointed because of the shortness of her scenes. She did an excellent job playing the stuck up miss who tries to entrap Mr. Rochester. 
  • Jamie Bell as St.John (Sinjon) Rivers - I've only seen Jamie Bell in a few other smaller roles so I wasn't sure how he would fit into the role but he actually did very well. As I watched his character interact with Jane Eyre and his sisters Mary and Diana I found myself liking him more and more. I've always liked Sinjon's character and his story even though it's a sad one. He is such a hard working and devout man but with a strictness that is sometimes dangerous. Jamie Bell did a great job in the role and *big spoiler*I almost wish Jane had chosen him over Mr. Rochester and that they had gone to India as missionaries.*end of spoiler*
  • Tamzin Merchant & Holliday Grainger as Mary & Diana Rivers - I was particularly interested in these two young ladies and I greatly enjoyed their portrayals, fresh, sweet, friendly and very kind just like sisters to Jane. Tamzin you may remember from her role as Georgiana Darcy in Pride & Prejudice (2005). They added light and good humor to the film and I only wish they had more scenes!

Mr. Rochester plays with Blanche Ingram
My Thoughts: Overall this film was just so-so. It's really not long enough to really develop the story and particularly the relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester, which really needs to be done because they are such an odd match. When there isn't that time to develop their friendship then their attraction becomes very much a physical. Jane Eyre's childhood is run over very very briefly, her time at Thornfield Hall is barely begun before Mr. Rochester comes and seems to be immediately attracted to her and make demands on her time and almost on her person. *spoiler*After their engagement is official Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre do quite a lot of kissing which I found unnecessary.*spoiler*  Mr. Rochester's past history and that of Adele's is so briefly run over that if you blink you'll miss it. Characters such as Richard Mason, Blanche Ingram and the Rivers are barely given time to have their stories understood. There are a few interesting conversations between Jane and Mr. Rochester (and also between Jane and St.John Rivers), some of which provide a bit of humor but on the whole they are re-invented dialog instead of quoted from the book. I would watch it again (I've watched it twice so far) but it's not my favorite adaptation.

Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester 
My Recommendations: I would not recommend this film for younger children because it is a sad and hard story. It's rated PG-13 for "thematic elements including a nude image and brief violent content". The "nude image" is a painting of an undressed woman which Jane Eyre sees briefly once and then runs her candle nearer for a longer look. For any one who has read and enjoyed the book you probably won't appreciate all the changes they've made and scenes they've excluded, but other fans won't want to miss this beautifully done period drama.


More Photos:




Have you seen Jane Eyre (2011)
If you've seen it, what did you think of it?

Very Truly Your's,


Hannah said...

I agree with you. I was really excited to go see it in the theatre, after waiting so long for it to play locally, but was a bit disappointed. Not my favorite adaptation.

Melody said...

I am rather interested in seeing this for my Jane Eyre reviews which I will probably be doing. I watched the 1996 version the other day ~ have you seen that one? Do you think this one is closer to the book? They made a whole lot of changes - for instance, St. John was at Gateshead, and was managing things after Mrs. Reed's death. Furthermore, they have crazy people do their evil deeds right after Jane leaves Thornfield (and the discussion between Jane & Rochester is very short; hardly anything, nothing like the long, tragic part in the book!) I rather liked the Jane portrayed, however.

So, which IS your favorite version?

ldsjaneite said...

Your comments under "My thoughts" and "My recommendations"--I completely agree. I wasn't a huge fan of her as Jane, but I like what you said. I thought he was all right as Rochester. But honestly, Toby Stephens is the best Rochester I've ever seen and I'm in love with him and can't abide another. :-)

Anonymous said...

I've STILL yet to see it, every chance I get something comes up. :( Anyway, after reading this, I'm wondering your favorite adaption is? Personally, I think the 2006 version was very well by the book. Of course there were a few differences, but overall pretty faithful (minus the library turned bedroom scene, lol). And Toby Stephens is just the best Rochester. :) I thought it was interesting that he had been in another Bronte series 10 years earlier, though I can't remember his name in it.


ldsjaneite said...

Rachel--it's Gilbert Markham!

Carrie said...

Spoilers for those of you who haven't read/watched it!!I really liked it. I've never read the book, but I liked this movie. I like the storyline, but I don't like how Rochester was trying to marry Jane when he was still married! And, I liked him better before he went blind. I thought, in one scene, when Jane went back to the house and it was burnt, I thought that maybe she had been living in an abandoned house and that she had imagined all of it (being schizophrenic or something). But, happily, that was not the case. =)

The character development seemed to go along pretty well, and I think I understood the plot well enough having never read/seen the story before. I didn't even recognize that Mrs. Reed was Anne Elliot! I thought she was convincing. Annoying and actually somewhat ugly because of her character. I think Judi Dench was so-so or 'pretty good'. I liked Mia as Jane. I think the main other thing I've seen her in is Alice in Wonderland. I think she is pretty as Jane (though I don't particularly like the hairstyle where the hair is looped around her ear).

When Sinjon was trying to get Jane to marry him, then I stopped liking him as much. How could someone propose when they don't love her at all! She would not make a good missionary if her heart wasn't in it, and from what I saw, she didn't have a passion for the unsaved or for missions.

Wow, this is long. I'll stop now!

I do think you did a good review because you discussed the portrayals of characters, and the clothes, scenery, etc. and told us your honest opinion, instead of just telling us who played what and how you loved it (or hated it!). =)


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this interpretation of Jane Eyre. Fukunaga does a great job of telling this story with interesting narrative structure and cinematography. This version is more gothic in tone but it still manages to capture the romantic moments powerfully.

melissa said...

i thought this movie was a let down. It felt like a puzzle with half the pieces missing and if I didn't know the story so well, i might not see the whole picture. I looked forward to a new spin on a story the has been told Well many times. I will stick with my BBC VHS tape....thanks.

RosieP said...

I'm sorry to say that Sally Hawkins is too "pretty" to be Mrs. Reed and too affected in her speech to be believed.

Too pretty? Aunt Reed was supposed to be unattractive?

M.V. Bones said...

Of all the adaptations of Jane Eyre I've seen, this is by far (in my opinion) the most true to the book in the tone and the spirit of the story. The most important passage of dialogue (in my humble opinion), the bit just before Mr. Rochester proposes to her, was preserved very faithfully.

Things I agree with you on:
1. Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Reed - I don't really feel that they understood Mrs. Reed as a character. Mrs. Reed holds herself and her children in the highest regard and when Jane confronts her with the fact that she HAS FAILED as a mother, Mrs. Reed rebuts by once again trying to attribute passion as a fault on Jane. This moment was not accurately depicted in the 2011 adaptation. Sally Hawkins was stone cold throughout the scene, and indeed, the movie.

2. Not enough of Jane's childhood and life at Lowood was depicted. Were you to go on this adaptation alone, you would walk away from this film under the impression that Lowood remained the in the same miserable state for the entirety of Jane's time there. You never find out that Mr. Brocklehurst is kept in check after the out-break of typhus*.
You also never meet Miss Temple in this adaptation (or, indeed, most adaptations of this story).

4. St.John Rivers. Ironically, possibly the most inaccurate aspect of this adaptation is also one of the best. St.John is usually portrayed as an unlikeable person. But as they cut down his story to fit the time constraints, they sort of turn his characters affections to Jane. And I really do believe that Jaimie Bell's St.John loves Jane - he's just so personally strict that he can't truly show it without being oppressive to Jane's passionate character.

5. The soundtrack. I can't read Jane Eyre anymore unless I'm listening to this soundtrack. I truly feel it captures what Bronte is all about.

Things I don't agree with you on:

1. I understand that Michael Fassbender is not not for everyone. No, he doesn't EXACTLY fit the description Bronte gives of her hero, But I feel that exact appearance isn't the most important thing in an adaptation. The most important thing is the essence of the character, and I think Michael did this beautifully. As you mentioned, he's not a conventionally "handsome" man, but he has a powerful charisma, which renders him (to my way of thinking)exceedingly attractive.

2. Judi Dench was exactly how I imagined Mrs. Fairfax. I've seen a lot of portrayals of Victorian housekeepers, but apart from Anne Reid as Mrs. Rouncewell in Bleak House (2005) I felt that Dame Judi was the most suited to it.

The cinematography was stunning. And good cinematography is sadly something that you don't often find in REALLY good Period Drama adaptations (See Mansfield Park 1999).

As for the costumes, the dresses in this adaptation are NOT accurate to the 1830's when the novel is set.
Fukunaga decided to move the time-line of the story forward so that Mrs Reed would be wearing the [frankly atrocious] styles of the 1830's and Jane would wear the lower, slimmer, more flattering waistlines of the 1840's.

So all in all, I think this is very well done for the feature length nature of the film. There are a lot of TRULY AWFUL feature film Period Dramas. In most cases that is due condensing the material. I had expectation that this would be Edited with simplified dialogue. Cut down it was, but the dialogue was well done, and for a two hour motion picture, it passes with flying colors.
On my own Scale of Period Drama Rating* I gave it an overall total of 90

*Outbreaks of typhus only occur in truly reprehensible conditions. It's transmitted by lice and also known as Camp Fever or Prison Fever.

*the Ribbon Scale, I like to call it - which divides Period Dramas into three categories ("Most Agreeable - 80-100 points; "Tolerable - 50-70 and "Badly Done - 10-40) based on the total of points it receives for Tone, Casting, Acting, Scripting, Pacing, Cinematography, Setting, Costumes, Musical Score and Book Accuracy.

Thomas Watson said...

The movie ultimately feels like a Cliff's Notes version of the book with a couple of pages missing.

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