Cinema Review: Jane Eyre

Q: How did Jane Eyre get the chicken across the road? A: Reader, she carried him.

DIR: Cary Fukunaga • WRI: Moira Buffini • PRO: Alison Owen, Paul Trijbits • DOP: Adriano Goldman • ED: Melanie Oliver • DES: Will Hughes-Jones • CAST: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a tale which we are all familiar with on some level. We may not know all of the ins and outs, or even care about them, but we all have a general idea about this ‘plain Jane’ character and her experiences. This year, Jane Eyre is re-imagined by director Cary Fukunaga, who attempts to breathe new life into this Gothic romance.

The Gothic genre is one which has always been inextricably linked to romance, as the novels of the Victorian era insisted upon this connection (that’s right folks, even before Stephanie Meyer was born!). In all of these novels there exists deep erotic undertones and an intense need for sexual freedom, and the knowledge of every facet of this person who exists as Other. Jane Eyre has become the epitome of this Gothic-romance genre and is a story which has been told under many guises.

Mia Wasikowska is of course, anything other than a plain Jane but here she is transformed into a severe-looking character who seems to have been drained of all colour, as if the very breath of life has been sucked from her over the course of her short life. This, in itself is a triumph of this movie, the costume and make-up here is astounding as the entire piece is told through muted colours and dulled tones, which, in any other story, would have the audience turn away in boredom. Here there is some small colour, some small point of interest which keeps us itching for a wider colour palate.

This is, in terms of romance, the most human telling of this story. Bronte’s novel can often come off stifling in its heavy descriptions, and previous movie adaptations have painted Mr. Rochester as some kind of foreign demon. Here, through Michael Fassbender’s take on the character, for what must be the first time, we feel pity for Mr. Rochester, and we pray for his success, and the fast release from his pains. Where, in previous adaptations, we may have feared him, here we feel that sexual tension, that longing which makes the Gothic-romance genre so enjoyable. It is a genre, much copied, but very rarely pulled off.

The one downfall of this movie is the horror aspect, or lack thereof. Bronte’s novel presents us with a bleakly horrific landscape, and that mounting tension of the build-up to a ‘jump-scare’ that may, or may not ever come. In this adaptation, that tension seems entirely absent, the play on the Other seems entirely absent, and Thornfield, although imposing in stature, entirely lacks that Unheimlich tension throughout. This lack in tension makes the ultimate reveal of the story less shocking than it has been previously, and somehow takes away from the movie as a whole. Here we focus too much on the romance, and the gothic aspects somewhat falter as a result.

Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre is a successful re-telling of this popular tale. It is an enjoyable movie which unfortunately leaves the audience itching for more. The romantic aspects of the genre are portrayed to perfection, but we are left with only a hint of the Gothic or Horror motifs which should be a focal point here.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

Jane Eyre is released on 9th September 2011

Jane Eyre – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8J6Cjn06kA

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