Hello, young boys and girls! Did you know your generation now has its own poster girl for literacy? Her name is Mia Wasikowska and she’s appeared in Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre (those are two classics, silly) and glossing over her filmography you’ll find more movies based on short stories and books. (Pretty soon you can also see her in Nick Cave‘s adaptation of Wettest Country by Matt Bondurant. So read more, kids!
And while you’re at it, be sure to have read some Brontë books in your lifespan. You may overlook the penned works of their brother and father, but siblings Charlotte, Emily and Anne concocted some of the best stories in the English literature. The books may have been published more than 160 years ago, but they won’t fade away any time soon. By way of visual proof: in 2011 both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were remade for the cinema. Once again? Yes, once again.
And every time Brontë fans worry not without reason. Most people seemed to have forgotten these books shocked the readers when they were published. Remaking them as a fancy costume drama doesn’t do the sisters the honour they deserve. Jane Eyre was the first to be released. Did it do Charlotte justice?
Hard to say: the internet informed us of a petition to get a “director’s cut” of the film. According to those sources, the intended film should have lasted approximately 150 minutes. Long? Well yeah. However,Jane Eyre does seem a bit condensed. Not that surprising: when attempting to make a film out of a novel, things have to be cut. Is that bad? Not necessarily: some scenes are not needed and can be left out of the film – movies are after all another medium.
But it does get bothersome when certain important plotlines are left out of an adaptation. Bearing in mind it’s a classic, we are probably not shocking you too hard when saying Rochester was still married when he attempted to wed Jane Eyre. A key figure here is Mrs. Poole, the woman who has to make sure the original and mad Mrs Rochester doesn’t leave the attic. In the film version Mrs. Poole is barely mentioned up to that point, making the spectator wonder where this woman suddenly came from. Of course, a director can assume the viewer has probably read the book, but still it’s odd to see a key figure of the narrative suddenly pop up out of nothing.
Having said that, this adaptation is harsher than a lot of glossy versions. Not that it’s a bleak piece, but the notion of Hollywood is far from the rough settings. Another problem with many older adaptations is that the actors often looked too pretty for the roles, a key mistake given that Rochester is often described as far from handsome in the book whereas Jane is mainly a plain-looking girl. Try and link that to a movie that looks like a commercial for beauty creams. At least that’s something that this version got right, a key element that immediately smacks the film into the Top 3 of Charlotte Brontë adaptations.
Overall, this is a decent movie with good leads (Fassbender, this year’s Ryan Gosling, is Rochester.) Some things are unclear if you haven’t read the book, some omissions annoy if you have, but in the end it could have been a lot worse. Given that most adaptations of Brontë novels are labelled as “abysmal’ and “a disgrace to the book”, that’s almost a compliment. Good scenery too. We could almost say we enjoyed this one. Almost. Now stop browsing and read a novel.