I went to see the new Jane Eyre yesterday, and really enjoyed it. The story itself is of course great, and Mia Wasikowska made a fantastic Jane. Quietly strong, subtly passionate, independent, calm, and yet having that slight vulnerability and innocence of someone who has been held down all her life, Mia elegantly brings out all the traits that make Jane Eyre one of the great characters of literature, and of feminism.
Michael Fassbender was an excellent Mr. Rochester as well. I thought the age difference between him and Mia might’ve been too much (he is supposed to be older, but I thought it would be too ‘obvious’ on screen), but they were actually really well matched. On the other hand, my friends and I agreed that Jamie Bell, while a good actor, wasn’t our ideal casting choice for St John Rivers. Although Jane is young (only 19), she is very mature, and next to her Jamie Bell just seemed a little too much of a child and not quite believable in this role. I guess there was a desire to really emphasise the opposites between Mr Rochester and Mr Rivers, but I feel that someone like James McAvoy or Tom Hardy would’ve been better suited for it.
The scenery is impressive as well; vast countryside both harsh and beautiful, and Thornfield Hall in all its Gothic glory. I’ve not seen any other version of Jane Eyre so I can’t compare, but I think this film certainly captures the essence of the book. Apart from the casting of Jamie Bell, it doesn’t appear to ‘overdo’ anything else (for example Blanche Ingram could’ve been quite a cow, but she wasn’t unnecessarily so). A good watch whether or not you’ve read the book, and I’m definitely looking forward to more Mia Wasikowska films.
As an additional thought, I’ve never read Wuthering Heights, but I recently saw it, and after seeing Jane Eyre the similarities between the two Brontë sisters’ stories really struck me. It’s not just in the physical landscape of ‘rugged Northern England,’ but also in the idea that hardship is often a great part of love. What differentiates the various characters is how they express their passions – aggressively, submissively, or subtly like Jane – and also how they overcome or succumb to hardship. It would be easy to say that the antagonists express their love and passion aggressively and succumb to their hardship while the protagonists do the opposite, but that would be oversimplifying things and taking away from the complex characters. It seems like the Brontë sisters preferred not to dwell on idealised love, but wrote on real love and everything that comes with it in real life, which is as relevant in the 1800s as it is today.