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 😦