True to the heart of Bronte

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am
 

There have been many film versions of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, but director Cary Fukunaga clearly felt there was more than enough relevant material in the Victorian novel for modern audiences.

The film opens as a horror-stricken Jane (Mia Wasikowska) runs across the windswept Yorkshire moors, which appear here in all their stark, stunning glory. Those who know the novel may be confused by the grown-up protagonist, as the novel begins in childhood; but soon after she arrives, drenched and pneumonic, at the home of St John Rivers, the movie switches to flashback mode, and Jane's sad start to life is slowly revealed.

The casting is perhaps unexpected, but spot-on. Jane is famously plain, and the wide-eyed Wasikowska, who was Tim Burton's ethereal Alice in Wonderland, manages to dull down her interesting features, as much through the power of her expressions as makeup. She conveys Jane's firmly held morals without seeming prudish; rather, she comes across as highly principled - reflecting the feminist leaning of the books - despite her passions.

Michael Fassbender as Mr Rochester is just the right blend of sarcastic and smouldering, essential when you only have two hours to make Jane's feelings for him believable; and Jamie Bell's Mr Rivers is gratifyingly far less weedy than Bronte's.

It may not be absolutely by the book, but you can't help but feel Bronte would've approved.

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