Period films can be hard to market to a modern day audience given the nature of its content - unless it has epic battle scenes ala Elizabeth (1998) and Master & Commander (2003) or laced with an insurmountable level of visual effects and action sequences (such as, Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Ridley Scott's 2010 version of Robin Hood). Create an adaptation of one of Jane Austin's romantic novels and expect a flurry of females or a bevy of die-hard Austin fans and the same goes for any classic stories written by authors such as William Make-piece Thackery, Victor Hugo or the Bronte Sisters to name a few...
That is why when anyone embarks on the venture of re-creating or adapting a classic novel to the screen they have some very critical audience members to please. The director is expected to remain faithful to the author's text - or at least, tread as closely to it as possible. Any deviation or vast demonstration of artistic license is shunned. Having never read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (but having read her sister Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights), Cary Fukunaga never had to contend with that preconception or level of expectation from me. Lucky Fukunaga I was a blank slate. Nevertheless, given some hefty research it seems that Fukunaga will have pleased even the most die-hard of Bronte fans, because the film for want of a better word, is excellent - and that is based not just on the quality of its making, or the calibre of its actors, but its capacity to insight an emotional response from me...an audience member. Anyone who professes that they did not feel anything whilst watching this film is either a stone or a zombie.
Cary Fukunaga weaved a poetic visual adaptation of the famous Charlotte Bronte novel, Jane Eyre with the help of a fine cast and the hauntingly beautiful score created by Dario Marianelli. At the heart of its romance and poeticism is the music. Dario's score is brilliant and matches the story so effortlessly it has done more than just compliment Fukunaga's masterpiece. The entire film plays like a seamless tune, its artistic beauty is likened to poetry - a beautiful sonnet.
Commendation to the story can only go to the brilliant Charlotte Bronte whom in 1847 created a story so poignant that it is relevant even today. It grapples with issues such as child abuse, social stratification, the role of a woman in society, religion, has themes demonstrative of gothic supernatural symbolism and above all else, delves into the complexities of love and the human condition. Bronte is an incredible writer and someone whose thoughts, imagination and opinion created one of the most feminist novels in history (without even intent). Therefore, how could you go wrong? - and coupled with Fukunaga's youth and vitality, his openness and modern imagination, you have the makings of something very special. Finally we see a period film that displays a darkness to it because our world is so punctuated not just by beauty but by undefinable yet undeniable darkness. Yet, there is always that light at the end of the tunnel - that sense of hope.
Central to the story is the protagonist Jane Eyre, whom falls into an unconventional love with the Byronic Mr. Rochester. Mia Wasikowska as Jane is perfect - perfect casting not just for her physical appearance but for the life that she gives the character. Jane is someone complex and steeped in a deep sense of morality. Having come from a very hard life wrought with abuse and neglect, she finds herself at Thornfield Hall. It is a foreboding place that is riddled with secrets and mystery - Fukunaga makes full use of the gothic architecture and plays as much upon the environment as possible to create those moments of fear and that slight sense of unease. Jane embarks on a journey of love that highlights not just the sheer intoxication of its euphoria but also the complexities that context, situation and politics delves a heavy blow.
Michael Fassbender is perfect as Mr. Rochester. Hard and cruel, he can be foreboding, ever reminding Jane that she is his subordinate and he is her superior, and yet, through this unconscious flaw in his character, he finds himself enlightened by this light called love. He is a tortured character and Fassbender brings a level of depth to him that makes you understand that he is tortured soul - someone that is not at ease, that is withered down by the complications that life brings. Yet Jane is his only solace. Fassbender and Wasikowska are perfect together.
Jamie Bell plays St John Rivers, who falls for Jane and is set upon making her his wife. Bell is accomplished in this role and he makes St John someone believable - someone real. Someone who has compassion and yet is guided by society's (and religion's) unrelenting codes of conduct. Judy Dench also appears as the dutiful Mrs. Fairfax. Dench is always superb and she creates a maternal and almost home-like centre for Jane at Thornfield.
All that can be said is that this story is filled with such heart and soul. The theatrical version I saw is a drastically culled version of Fukunaga's original cut. I do hope that Australia's BluRay release of Jane Eyre has the Director's Cut which is an additional 45minutes longer. Nevertheless, I am still satisfied with the version I saw today, however I am avidly interested in Fukunaga's extended version.
A beautiful film, with beautiful characters and an incredible score.