Books & Words, Film

Jane Eyre

1 Comment 26 September 2011

Conquering the behemoth task of staying true to Charlotte Bronte’s original text, Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Jane Eyre is a rare beast: a period drama which isn’t totally, insufferably dull.

Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) is a young girl who escapes from the clutches of her abusive aunt and finds a home in Thornfield Hall, where she meets the enigmatic Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender). The story is well-known, and that comes with pros and cons. Screenwriter Moira Buffini and director Cary Fukunaga use the familiarity of this plot to their advantage: Fukunaga plays with the story by pulling it apart and breaking down essential scenes in order to keep viewers interested, and it works. He delivers a vibrant, if somewhat bleak, adaptation of the novel.

The two leads give decent performances, but Wasikowska is overpowered during her scenes with Fassbender, with the character of Jane coming across as weak and pathetic. In his relatively small amount of screen time, Jamie Bell stands out as the good-natured but thoroughly misled John Rivers.

Since before its release, Fukunaga’s adaptation has been singled out for playing up the gothic elements of the story, but to say that they’ve been played up is an understatement. Cary Fukunaga drenches the film in grandiose, stylistic flourishes, from the dank, dull Lowood School, to the wild, unkempt natural environments. The gothic horror element of the novel pervades Fukunaga’s entire film, from the piercing violin score to the bleak, shaky cinematography. This element, in a way, helps keep the film weighted. The film never stops to indulge in any light-hearted romantic scenes, which provides a welcome relief from the persistent romantic escapades that riddle other adaptations. The rich, dark settings used provide a nice contrast to Jane’s youthful, naïve outlook on the world.

Dario Marianelli’s cringe-inducing score is the low point of the film. He uses strings to zero effect, with the wailing adding absolutely nothing to the film, which really is a disappointment. While the rest of the film feels new, it feels like Marianelli is stuck in the dark ages. While a classical score may seem right on paper, something more experimental is needed in order to fit with the tone of Fukunaga’s film.

Overall, Fukunaga has produced a timeless and elegant, though flawed, adaptation of Bronte’s novel, which is likely to please casual viewers as well as fans of the novel.

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1 comment

  1. Maroushka Saldanha says:

    Love your work Shaad!

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