Since the beginning of the moving image there have been twenty-six iterations of Charlotte BrontÃ«’s Jane Eyre on the big screen and on TV. Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre is the twenty-seventh. It would seem as if this was well-worn territory, so why would I want to watch this version of Jane Eyre. Well, there are a few good reasons to watch it, the eye of Fukunaga (Sin Hombre), the biting wit adapted by Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe) and the performances of Mia Wasikoswska (Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland) and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds, Fish Tank) are enough reasons to watch the latest version of Jane Eyre.
The classic story set in the 19th century of an orphan growing up to become a governess of a wealthy landowner, Wasikoswska plays the title role of Jane Eyre. Wasikoswska is striking as she proves she belongs in the upper crust of young Hollywood today. She plays Jane Eyre is poise and strong, sure of herself as she transcends her role to win the heart of her employer, Edward Rochester, becoming equals matched with minds and hearts. But looming in her soul, Wasikoswska offers sorrow and angst. This is a winning performance! Fassbender is equally matched with charm and a certain grace that few leading men in Hollywood have. He’s fearless, as Rochester not bound by duty and status but rebels against the status quo taking Jane Eyre as his wife.
The scope and eye of Fukunaga, Jane Eyre lends itself to a gothic, almost horror tone. Complete with creaks and jumps offered in haunted houses and horror movies. But yet, Fukunaga manages to capture the lyrical beauty of this dark period. Channeling the best of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, Fukunaga is inspired to infusing these influences. Matched by the wit and punch of Moira Buffini script, easily not updating but marrying the conventions of the original novel but giving it a certain bite for modern audiences.
In clumsy hands, Jane Eyre could have been easily shadowed and played off popular genre-lit tones like Twilight or New Moon and even given in to trendy posh works like Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood. Thankfully this Jane Eyre is not any of those things. It’s a strong entry into the cannon as well as a strong second entry of a budding filmmaker. This film is a display of emotion, performance, wit and beauty.