Film in Fiction: Jane Eyre

When the new adaptation of Jane Eyre came out last summer, my utter excitement could not be contained. I am a sucker for a good period drama and tend to go out of my way to see them either in the cinema, television or a miniseries; I cannot get enough. I had read the novel Jane Eyre back when I was in the beginning phases of my bookworm status in an attempt to read all the literary classics. Long story short, I still haven’t read every classic novel out there but this one made an impact on my life. I do remember enjoying the novel and it is in my top 20 favorite books of all time, but I felt a need to refresh my memory before I went and saw the movie. Finally finishing the book and seeing the movie I can make an accurate comparison between the two.

               Here is a short summary of the novel before I jump into my thoughts of the movie coinciding with the novel. Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte, is the story of a girl who is orphaned by her parent’s death and is sent to live with her relations, the Reeds. Her uncle, who shows great affection for her, dies soon after and she is left to the care of her aunt who hates her and treats her miserably. Her aunt decides to send her away to an all girl’s boarding school, so she wouldn’t have the responsibility of her and could focus on her own children. Jane goes to school where she is molded into the woman she is to become; she is plain, solemn, quiet, highly moral, meek, but very intelligent, independent in an aspect unknown to women and becomes quite an asset to the school when she is finished. After teaching there, Jane decides to find a new vocation and applies to become a governess at Thornfield Hall. It is where Jane becomes aware of a Mr. Rochester, her stern, stubborn, Byronic hero of her new world- he is simply, “mad, bad, and not someone you should know or acquaint yourself with”. But as fate would have it, Jane soon develops different feelings to her employer then she originally indented. Jane also develops a friendship with the house keeper Mrs. Fairfax and a compassion for her pupil Adele. As Jane becomes more involves at Thornfield, her feelings for Mr. Rochester become more complex and Jane, who was so sure of herself, must come to grips that she is changing. As the story processes so does Jane and Rochester, but due to circumstances out of the reach of both of them Jane leaves to find herself elsewhere. The story gives power to the movement of women as an example to Jane; that we are able to live outside of what life gives us and live out our true identity.

               The story is a masterpiece full of poetry of the struggles that Jane deals with at an early age. Jane realizes that she must depend upon herself to make it in the world and no one was going to hold her by the hand to do so. This novel gives power to the women of the world in belief that you do not have to settle for what life gives you; you can take it and mold it into what you want. Jane overcomes everything that is thrown at her without giving up her morals, values, identity, or independence in the process. The idea of being true to yourself was profound even during the time when Charlotte Bronte wrote this work; it was above a time when women felt like they did not have any control over their lives. Bronte shows, through Jane, that you should not have to give up who you are to obtain the things you want.

               There have been 16 different adaptations of this classic work, varying from storyline to language to taking only the basic plot line since it began in 1915. For a novel that was considered to be “boring” by students I went to school with, it seems to have made an impact on the rest of society. The adaptation I am going to be drawing from would be the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre staring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, and directed by Cary Fukunaga. This adaptation was absolutely beautiful, elegant, and well thought out. I got the feeling from the director of his love for this amazing work, and his detailed eye of how he wanted the story to play out. Fukunaga focused more on the relationships of the characters and how they interacted with one another then Jane’s own individual story line, which I particularly liked. There was this one scene where there was an “almost kiss” between Jane and Rochester, the filming and the acting was so well done I could feel the sizzle, the chemistry between the two of them. I was able to witness the growing attraction between Jane and Rochester and understand where her feelings may have developed, where as the book doesn’t. The book is beautiful but the author doesn’t go into much detail of how her feelings came about, they seem sudden and rushed as sometimes feelings are, but the film allowed me to see the progression of their relationship.

The opinion of Mia in the film was mixed by critics, some day that she was too stiff for the role and maybe should have shown more. I would have to question those critics in thinking that they have never actually read the book, for Mia did an amazing port rail of his astounding character. Jane doesn’t show lots of emotion and tending to do a great deal of thinking but she still has the power to feel, which Mia brought when it was needed. I enjoyed her interpretation of the character and found it quite amazing how still she could sit for so long, in a corset no less! Michael Fassbender played the notorious Mr. Rochester, and I have to admit that I LOVE him! He brought the brooding, self-pity, quick to angry aspects of the film but then as the film goes on you tend to find him more appealing. You began to see how Jane could fall in love with a man like him and begin to see the true nature of him. Watch out Mr. Darcy, there may be a new crush on the block…. Oh second thought, maybe not.

               This adaptation, I am happy to say, was pretty true to the book; of course there are things they missed out on and important points that should have been met but you have to remember that this is an adaptation of a work not a replica of it. Out of all the adaptations of Jane Eyre that is out there, and of the ones I have seen, I loved this one the most. I loved the actors in it and their portrayal of these characters and the modernity they brought into this classic. If you are a fan of period dramas, chick flicks, or of Jane Eyre then I would look into seeing this film.  

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