Now I freely admit that I am rubbish at watching films; I don’t have the attention span for them. I always feel the need to be doing something else at the same time, and as proof of this I am currently watching Jane Eyre and collecting my thought and feelings on it together at the same time. Arguably this could detract from the actual film but I need to be doing something as well.
Jane Eyre is a novel by Charlotte Bronte focusing on the life of Jane, from a young girl in her aunt’s house to a governess to a married woman. Jane, an orphan, endures a hard and loveless childhood, tortured by her older cousins and disregarded by her heartless aunt. Jane is then sent away to Lowood School, where conditions are appalling and many girls do not survive various outbreaks such as tuberculosis. Jane is lucky. She is a survivor. After years as a pupil and a teacher she becomes a governess to a young French ward at the imposing Thornfield Hall. It is here that she meets Mr. Rochester and embarks on a journey of self discovery where she is pushed to her limits upon discovering more about Rochester’s life and past.
Jane Eyre is played by Mia Wasikowska. I quite liked Wasikowska’s portrayal of Jane; she made me want to read the novel again, and as I have already admitted I am not a huge Bronte fan, so I view this as quite an accomplishment. She was exactly what I expected from Jane, plain, humble and slightly self righteous, but I guess that is because we don’t have as strict a moral code in modern day society. I was moved when she told Rochester that she couldn’t stay after finding out about Bertha and this was my favourite scene from the film.
Mr Rochester is played by Michael Fassbender and for me he stole the show. We all love a good romantic hero, possibly one of the main reasons so many of us return to the classics time and time again, but Rochester has never been top of my list. It’s amazing how much a film can alter your perception. I remember watching an older film version when I studied Jane Eyre for A Level and not being wholly convinced with the character portrayals, none of which were memorable. However, I sort of fell a little bit in love with Rochester in this version. He is quite ruggedly handsome and I like how he teases Jane. But perhaps the quality that made him most desirable was his smoking. Now I realise this is odd, and I am not a smoker myself, nor do I like being around smokers, but I do love watching people smoke, very strange I know. I have always associated smoking with evil characters (blame Disney) and I like how it highlights Rochester’s darker side.
Judi Dench is, as always, fantastic. She is just so amazing in everything I see her in that I cannot find fault. I wasn’t wholly convinced by the Rivers family, I don’t know they just seemed too young for me to fully believe in them. I mean they could be young in the novel for all I remember but still, they just seemed too young. (Maybe this is a sign I am getting old *sob*)
As always with good periods dramas, it is the settings that I love the most. Thornfield Hall, the house of Mr Rochester, is essentially played (if I can call it that, but I guess the houses are still characters) by Haddon Hall in Derbyshire. It is beautiful, and so are the surrounding grounds. One of the things about the novel that has stuck in mind all these years has been the imposing nature of Thornfield and how this reflects the secrets it hides within its walls…attics! (oh Rochester just proposed) Films like this remind how much I love the British countryside and all the treasures it hides; I am looking forward to exploring more of them in the coming years.
Overall, I enjoyed this adaptation of Jane Eyre and would highly recommend it, even if, like me, you are not a huge Bronte fan. I felt the narrative was cleverly portrayed and I particularly liked the flashback element; unlike the novel the film starts with Jane’s escape from Thornfield and her childhood and time with Rochester is interspersed with her time with the Rivers family. I felt this was an effective way of engaging the audience, as someone who knows the novel well I loved this slightly different take on the narrative.
This was the second film I have watched for the Period Drama Challenge and if my film going habits are anything to go by I’ll post another one in 3 months!