Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quick Look: JANE EYRE

Cary Fukunaga’s new adaptation of Jane Eyre starts with the titular character fleeing across dark, windswept moors in a Gothic storm, signifying this version’s stylistic interests to be that of smoldering, roiling darkness. Aside from setting the striking mood of the opening scene, it’s a decision that marks the narrative disjunction of this film. This is not the opening of Charlotte Brontë’s great 1847 novel. The script by Moira Buffini starts quite a ways into the story to give us this unexpected shot of gloom before circling back to the beginning. There’s a tension between the film’s mannered choices, its dull dustiness, and its rawness, tenderness of mood. The adaptation’s time shifting is occasionally inelegant, confounding even, but what drags the production along is the emphasis on the pained emotions moldering underneath. Mia Wasikowska stars as Jane Eyre, beaten as a child, sent away by a cruel aunt, ground down as a schoolgirl by strict schoolmasters, and eventually finding employment, arriving at the imposing, dark Gothic property of Mr. Rochester. As played by Michael Fassbender, Rochester is a mysterious man, charming, clearly drawn to his young employee, but also clearly possessing some half-hidden capacity for ugly surprise. The two actors do a fine job with the material and Fukunaga surrounds them with a capable cast filled with respectable performances from the likes of Jamie Bell and Judi Dench. There’s a tense emotionality hidden down each and every dark corridor, in the dim, candle-lit nighttime rooms where cozy creepiness lurks about every conversation. A stiff, reverential take on this classic literary material may have been too predictable, but covering the approach over with rearranged chronology and atmospherics does little to hide how standard this is, a great novel turned into an adequate film.

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