Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre
THE LATEST film version of Charlotte Bronte's novel understands, perhaps more than those that have come before it, that the book's melancholic gothicism goes hand in hand with its eroticism.
From the very opening of the film, there is an overwhelming sense of the more sensational aspects of Bronte's novel which is famous for defying genres and for hiding different strands of critique within its tightly wrought Yorkshire coils.
Mia Wasikowska is the best Jane on film (there have been many fine renditions, including those by Samantha Morton (1997) and Charlotte Gainesbourg (1996)). She understands Jane's deeper conflict and temptations, as well as her purity, integrity and naivety. As Rochester, Michael Fassbender never quite manages to escape Orson Welles' shadow (1943) but he brings a sense of the scoundrel that is at the heart of a character who must be attractive, yet, in some ways, repulsive. Plus, he's easy on the eyes. Unlike previous versions, this one makes plain the large age difference between the two characters who are pulled together by forces long in motion before they meet.
Screenwriter Moira Buffini's choices in relation to the film's screenplay are audacious and somewhat risky, but pay off spectacularly in the opening scenes. Almost all of the key dialogue in the book is left intact. Perhaps out of a need to not interrupt the original symmetries envisioned by Bronte for her book, the depiction of the woman in the attic has been preserved, notwithstanding post-colonial critique and that powerful response to her, Wide Sargasso Sea.
This film, directed by Cary Fukunaga, is handsomely photographed by cinematographer Adriano Goldman who washes all of the shots in the colours of the dull moors: greys, browns, moss and delicate pastels. It is all tied together by one of the finest scores for the year: Dario Marienelli's wonderful, dissonant violin terraces, beautifully executed by Jack Liebeck.
The Blu-ray version, released this month, does a superb job of picking up the finer details of the landscape, the costumes and the detailed production design. STARS: ****/4
LISTEN to the soundtrack here: