Jane Eyre film – Dreadful! :(

I watched the new adaptation of Jane Eyre this afternoon: directed by Cary Fukunaga and starring Mia Wasikowska as Jane, and Michael Fassbender as Rochester.

Jane Eyre has long shared top honours in my list of all-time favourite books, but I’ve seen and heard the beginnings of so many disappointing audio and video adaptations over the course of the 36 years since I first read it that I don’t normally even dip into them any more. I thought I’d give this one a try, though, because Andrew Davies did such a fantastic job with Pride & Prejudice (the Colin Firth version) that I know these things can be done well, and it would be such a thrill to see my fave book brought magically to life on the screen.

Anyway, and IMO… it’s absolutely DREADFUL! I don’t know what sort of reviews it’s had–I’ll have a look when I’ve written this–but I found it entirely devoid of even the slightest spark of passion. The music was gloomy and downbeat and positively depressing, and the whole thing sounded more like a recitation spoken in grey monotone than an attempt on the part of any of the actors to inhabit the characters drawn so vividly by Charlotte Bronte.

Most of the important plot events were present, but it felt to me as though they’d simply been strung together by somebody ticking off a list, without any attempt to develop the characters, illustrate their thoughts and feelings or–ultimately–to show how or why Jane and Rochester fell in love. Love develops gradually, on a foundation of shared experiences. It doesn’t spring up in a vacuum! This, on the other hand, felt like a sprint from first meeting to proposal, closely followed by dashed hopes and, finally, reconciliation–Phew!!!–and all the while the characters slouched around with grim expressions looking as though they’d not experienced a moment of happiness in their lives.

Had I not read the book I’d have had not one iota of interest in or sympathy for the characters, and I’d certainly have been left wondering why on earth people have loved this story since it was first published more than 150 years ago.

Can it really be impossible to bring Jane Eyre properly to life on the screen? I live in hope that Andrew Davies might still take a stab at it, but time seems to be ticking away 😦

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5 Responses to Jane Eyre film – Dreadful! :(

  1. GeoffC says:

    Oh dear!. Strange that you should mention the new Jane Eyre just now, we haven’t seen it yet but should get around to it any day now. Vivien is a Bronte fan and is looking forward to it, the reviews on RT are very good at 85%:-
    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/jane_eyre_2011/

    I remember now, it was Andrew Davis who did the excellent BBC Pride and Prejudice (the definitive version now remastered for Blu-ray – a huge improvement on the DVD).

    • peewiglet says:

      Hi Geoff,

      I’ll be very interested to hear what you both think, particularly as Vivien is a fan.

      I saw after writing down my thoughts that the reviews are good, but honestly… I can’t understand why! Could just be me, though.

      Please let me know what you both think 🙂

  2. MrsH says:

    I agree with you entirely – although the film looks good and is well acted, whole long conversations between Jane and Rochester have been shrunk to a terse exchange of words with the emotional backdrop missing entirely.

    Having read the book a number of times, you notice how Charlotte Brontë’s novel has lots of amusing dialogue and observations and the story is woven together so well. The scenery and costumes in the film are wonderful, but the actors have so little script to speak, instead of whole conversations and the delicious interaction between Jane and Rochester were whittled down way too much.

    It seems that a lot of reviews accepted the cuts becuase it’s difficult to convey the whole story in a 2 hour film, but they could have spent a lot less time showing Jane wandering on the moors. I didn’t mind losing the final chapter but the penultimate one where Jane returns to Rochester is condensed to one line. Very disappointing.

    • peewiglet says:

      Hi there,

      Absolutely! All the humour and piquant exchanges are missing, and for me that’s why it doesn’t work. There’s not enough left to explain why Jane and Rochester fell in love. The book is filled with what you so rightly call “delicious interaction” between Jane and Rochester, but none of that is present in the film. What a shame 😦

  3. Jane Waterworth says:

    Hi – we are trying to contact you about a photo you took last year of the Lister Arms in the snow? Are you able to email me at jane@shirehotels.com??

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