The new film based on Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel is a modern, intimate take on the story that has inspired generations.
In this dusky adaptation of Jane Eyre, Mia Wasikowska plays the 19th century heroine in a tender, yet strong light. Very well-practised at portraying tragic inner turmoil with just a look, Wasikowska, from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, plainly shows Jane’s inner journey. Equally, Amelia Clarkson as the young Jane, gives a vivid display of pain and suffering in some truly shocking scenes. From her, we also get a clear impression of innocent childhood friendship, and the tragedy it can face.
However, the character who really stands out is Mr. Rochester. Wearing luxuriant lambchop sideboards, Michael Fassbender (Lt. Archie Hicox in Inglourious Basterds) gives an imposingly charismatic performance as the mysterious lord-of-the manor. Power, frustration and tenderness meld together in his character, to create a version of Rochester with the ability to confuse you about whether he is extremely dreamy or fiercely arrogant.
There are more abundant sideburns in the form of St John Rivers, played by BAFTA-winning Jamie Bell, who danced his way into our hearts in Billy Elliot. His presence in the film is stern yet hopeful, ultimately adding to the turmoil of Jane’s mind. A few scenes in particular between Bell and Wasikowska almost explode with repressed personal conflict.
The film is shrouded in candlelight, which at times softens the action and at others enhances the frustration of the struggle. The bleak and desolate scenes, although necessary for the film, would be a bit too much if it wasn’t for Dame Judy Dench. Playing the motherly Mrs Fairfax, the much-loved actress introduces some desperately needed gentle comedy into the story. She provides a welcoming face, who bustles through the film and creates a wholesome atmosphere. Hers is a character whom we will ourselves to like and end up being handsomely rewarded for this confidence.
While Dame Judy provides a little light relief from the raging emotions, do not be fooled. The high emotional temperature of this picture is hard to resist. Some advice: Do not come to the cinema without a packet of tissues even if you think you can handle it.
Social conventions, frustrating heartache, pent-up feelings and raging passion. It’s all here in this Bronte classic. There are a few scenes in particular that stand out either for their heightened emotion or tenderness. Either way, you are very likely to be left with a lasting impression of the intense atmosphere from this new adaptation of an old favourite.