Quick thoughts on the recent Jane Eyre film

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books and so I was eagerly anticipating the most recent film adaptation, especially as the trailer looked promising.  I have seen a lot of film adaptations of Jane Eyre, as I once made it a sort of personal project to see a bunch of them.

The versions I’ve seen:

1943 feature film with Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles

1983 miniseries with Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton

1996 feature-length with Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt

1997 feature-length with Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds

2006 miniseries with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens

Sad to say, I disliked all of the above except the 2006 mini-series.  Ruth Wilson was the only Jane I liked from the above actresses, the only one who seemed to capture Jane’s particular brand of quiet, direct fortitude.  The 2006 version certainly made departures from the text, but to me, the departures seemed like reasonable extrapolations and teasing out of themes and implications present in the book.  I kind of like filmmakers making the source material their own, as long as the story is still recognizable in its new form.  Faithful adaptations (and the 1983 miniseries was very faithful) can sometimes be dull and plodding.

But back to the 2011 film: I am happy to say that in this new version, Mia Wasikowska makes a wonderful Jane and Michael Fassbender is well-cast as Mr. Rochester as well.  Collapsing of scenes from the book were gracefully done.  The cinematography is beautiful, and the camera stays close to the composed yet expressive heroine at its center.

The dialogue that is spoken is definitely familiar if you’ve read the book; actually, I actually welcomed some of the deviations, considering how many film versions I’ve seen of the story.  At times, I thought the actors had some difficulty delivering the lines naturally – sometimes they really seemed like ‘lines of dialogue’ as opposed to a real conversation.  But a rewatch might not yield the same judgment. The ending was not where I expected it to be, but fit well with the atmosphere of the film overall.

Of course with a feature-length film, I was left wanting more, especially more Jane and Mr. Rochester scenes.  The 2006 miniseries I think remains my favorite because the central relationship has time to be developed – you can clearly see how the two are such kindred spirits.  But, the 2011 version is definitely the best feature-length version of Jane Eyre that I’ve seen.  I will probably add it to my DVD collection once it is released.

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5 responses to “Quick thoughts on the recent Jane Eyre film

  1. Sadly the film won’t be out here until next autumn 😦 I can’t wait to see it.

  2. I’m going to see this tomorrow! I’ve only ever liked the 2006 Jane Eyre too. Ruth Wilson is perfect in the part, and although I didn’t like the guy playing St. John, the miniseries was brilliant generally. I liked Mr. Rochester and I liked Jane! A miracle!

  3. Eva

    Good to know: I really want to see this! I haven’t seen any of the earlier adaptations, but now I’ll be on the lookout for the 2006 one. (I’m not a big fan of the book, so I think that will help me enjoy film versions more, hehe.)

  4. I’m glad the new movie is good. I’m not sure if I will get to see it until its on DVD, but I’m definitely going to make a point of getting it.

  5. nymeth – that is sad. And to think I was bummed, because D.C. wasn’t one of the ‘select cities’ of the movie’s first weekend limited release!

    Jenny – it is a miracle to be happy with both lead actors in the Jane Eyre adaptations. I didn’t have a solid opinion on the 2011’s St. John (played by that guy from Billy Elliot, whatshisface.). I liked the one from the 2006 version all right.

    Eva – You might like the 2006 version, for having a vision of its own in regards to adapting the story. But it’s hard to say for sure, as I am such a big fan of Jane Eyre, and thus coming at it from a different angle.

    Kim – It’s definitely not a movie that has to be seen on the big screen. I just wanted to see it sooner rather than later, so that’s why I went out to see it. But it will be just as pleasurable to curl up on the sofa to watch it in my own space.

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