The roar of thunder combines dramatically with the clattering of lightning, ominously illuminating the bleak rolling landscape of a desolate region of the British countryside. The Camera soars above a young petrified girl, ostensibly stalking her before swooping in for the kill. She flees in desperation towards a nearby house, yet nature seems to conspire against her, with rain battering against her weary face and mud restricting her movement, as if the earth were about to eat her up. This terrified young girl is our titular heroine Jane Eyre, yet, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d entered the wrong film, as this recent adaptation of Bronte’s seminal novel amplifies the gothic nature of her literary classic beyond the usual boundaries of a period drama.
Starring Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and the always spellbinding, Michael Fassbender (Hunger) as the story’s central partnership of Jane Eyre and Rochester, the film finds a perfect balance between the thespian standard of acting normal associated with period films and the sumptuously dark, often genuinely horrifying, atmosphere of supernatural suspense that has been subtly injected into the story. Taking the repressed eroticism and terror than lurks behind the eloquent prose and exploding them visually into the consciousness of the viewer through a plethora of well executed camera shots and the most deceptively alluring use of cinematography of modern times, Jane Eyre is a film which will both appease fans of its source material whilst surprising many unfamiliar with its gothic charms.
Wasikowska is perfect as Jane, timid but with an unmistaken inner strength, naturally pretty and noticeably confident whilst performing such a monumental role. However, Fassbender steals the show with his portrayal of the wealthy, older man who transfixes young Jane. Utterly charming whilst at other times brilliantly rude, this captivating performance ranks highly amongst a resume of astounding previous work. Jamie Bell as John Rivers, whilst performing admirably, is let down slightly by his natural youthful looks and boyish appearance but Judi Dench is delightful as Mrs Halifax.
Either you know the plot or you don’t but either way Jane Eyre’s masterfully created narrative won’t fail to both shock and excite in equal measures. Director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) has successfully taken the modern cultural obsession with all things Vampiric and transferred Jane Eyre’s Gothic love story into a paranormal romance which both tugs at the heart strings whilst subtly building an uncomfortable atmosphere for the audience to revel in. This tentative tale of unrequited love feels fresh and exciting without ever appearing unsympathetic to its original charm. An exceptional adaptation, that deserves a much wider audience than its historical facade will sadly attract.
Instant Score: 3.5
Retrospective Score: 3.5