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Jane Eyre - DVD Review

Jane Eyre

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

CARY Fukunaga’s take on Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel is an ambitious and consistently intiguing movie that plays up the Gothic elements of the novel almost as much as the romance.

It also features some blistering performances, not least from Mia Wasikowska as Jane, but also Michael Fassbender as Lord Rochester, Jamie Bell as St John Rivers and Dame Judi Dench as Mrs Fairfax.

The story of Jane Eyre needs little introduction to those in touch with classic literature and Bronte fans will be reassured to learn just how faithful Fukunaga remains.

But they may also be surprised by how much more he brings to the genre as opposed to sticking to more traditional costume drama elements.

His film is extremely atmospheric and unsettling, even, in some of its Gothic leanings, while simultaneously relying on a deliberately understated approach to the emotional content.

Quite often his actors are left to convey a range of emotions with few words (just like the internalized nature of Jane’s journey in the novel), thereby treating audiences as adults… and intelligent ones at that!

Wasikowska, in particular, imbues her Jane with a heightened sense of values and determination: a woman resolutely ahead of her time who steadfastly overcomes the various difficulties placed in her path to adulthood. Yet it’s a very subtle performance and one that doesn’t forget Jane’s age or the period in which it is set.

Fassbender is great, too, brooding manfully while relaying regret, torment and romantic desperation to quietly passionate effect. The scenes between the two of them are great: flitting from intense to tender, and even creating an unease and uncertainty among viewers aware of the age gap between the two stars. It is, one suspects, a deliberate ploy by Fukunaga to tip his hat to the period.

Bell, too, shines despite limited screen time, conveying decency marred by expectance to strangely sympathetic effect, while Dame Judi is typically masterful yet subtle as Jane’s mentor and friend.

Various other performances are worth mentioning too (from Simon McBurney’s disciplinarian Mr. Brocklehurst to Sally Hawkins’ cruel Mrs Reed) but Fukunaga deserves the lion’s share of the credit for allowing them all to shine while creating a visually striking and emotionally involving two hour film that does justice to the source material.

And for those thinking that the leap from his debut film, Sin Nombre, to Bronte would prove too far to take, then it’s worth noting there are similarities between the themes of both films in the way they pay close attention to the notions of identity, family and fitting in.

So, while this Jane Eyre might be too romantically reserved for those who like their costume dramas to be overly verbose and prone to grand gesture, Fukunaga’s film is notable for not relying on formula and pandering to genre expectation.

It is a striking film in its own way that enhances Fukunaga’s reputation as a very exciting filmmaking talent to watch.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: March 12, 2012