Best Films of 2011: Jane Eyre – The Beauty of Subtlety
A Review by Nadiya Romero
The silent and uninvolved possess the deepest and fiercest passions, as seen in what may be considered the best film adaptation and period piece since Pride and Prejudice in 2005 – Jane Eyre. “A classic for a new generation,” as Rolling Stone describes it, Jane Eyre is emotional and smouldering - elegant and understated all at the same time. While leaving the novel uncompromised and outdoing previous versions, director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre), brings this nineteenth century classic to life with a stellar cast, accurate costumes, gothic set designs and tone, as well as a beautifully composed soundtrack by Italian composer, Dario Marianelli.
Orphaned Jane Eyre is raised by her aunt Sarah, who unfairly ships her off to a strict Catholic boarding school for ‘bad’ behavior. Upon completing her education and turning eighteen, Jane (Mia Wasikowska) leaves the institute and finds work as a governess for Adele Varens (Romy Settbon Moore), the daughter of Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender), owner of Thornfield Hall. Though parentless, penniless and complete with her ‘tale of woe,’ Jane maintains a dignity, modesty and stoicism that leave Adele and her charmingly cold father deeply in love with her. But as Miss Bronte would have it, a shocking secret is revealed on Jane and Rochester’s wedding day, causing the devastated governess to flee the premises and the lives of her loved ones.
Fukunaga could not have chosen a more talented or appropriate set of actors, as there is not one mediocre performance from the opening scene to the bittersweet end. Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland, The Kids Are Alright) is the archetype of subtle and unconventional beauty, as she gives a performance wrought with quiet emotion, wit and intelligence. Her blunt face reveals everything and nothing, giving her a presence that is as intimidating as it is captivating. In other words, Wasikowska gives an entirely new and ironic meaning to the phrase ‘plain Jane.’ Michael Fassbender (Shame, X-Men: First Class) has had a good year. Another fairly new but wildly talented and attractive actor – Fassbender truly embodies the tormented Rochester, with his cold stare and brooding disposition. Dame Judi Dench, as usual, never disappoints. Her honest Mrs. Fairfax could not be ignored. In addition, the chemistry between the lead actors is palpable as seen in the compelling scenes between them, which are enhanced by poetic dialogue that both Wasikowska and Fassbender deliver without looking and sounding wooden or overly maudlin, which seems to be the norm of such movies in this genre.
The costume design of Jane Eyre simply augments the story, without being overdone or overwhelming. The sharpness and monotony of Jane’s grey dresses are reminiscent of her social background as well as her direct and determined air. Fukunaga’s use of close-ups, wide shots and lighting makes Jane Eyre more personal and authentic. He creates an unforgettable setting that mirrors the inner turmoil of his characters, as seen in the stormy opening scene that shows a distraught Jane. His drab, eerie tone seems beautifully in sync, and at times, in contrast with Jane and Rochester’s violent, yet controlled passions. Jane Eyre is made complete with a stunning soundtrack created by Marianelli, who also composed for similar films such as Pride and Prejudice and Atonement.
Jane Eyre is without a doubt, the best of its category in 2011. It manages to be entirely poignant and romantic without filling the spongy heads of hopeless romantics with sappy misrepresentations of love and all its tenets. It is a movie far more invested in emotional authenticity rather than theatrics, cheap tricks and unnecessary grandiose gestures.