Growing up, Jane Eyre was one of my favorite books. Even though I read it a couple of times back then, I hadn’t picked it up again since I was a teen. However, I do always try to catch the latest film version. The most recent is by Cary Fukunaga, with Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right, Alice in Wonderland) as Jane and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds, Hunger) as Rochester. The film goes into wide release later this month and I think it is one of the best I’ve seen at capturing both the gothic and romantic elements of the story, with a great atmosphere and just the right amount of gloom and drama.
In preparation for seeing this advanced screening, I downloaded a LibriVox recording by Elizabeth Klett to reacquaint myself with the story. If you don’t know LibriVox, they offer free audio recordings of books in the public domain. Since the books are all read by volunteers, the quality of the readers varies widely; however, the site often has multiple versions, so you can sample and pick which one you like. For example, the first reader I downloaded had mispronounced Hebrides and Caligula in just the first chapter, so I quickly abandoned her and switched to Klett’s reading, which I was quite happy with.
With the novel fresh in my mind, I must say that the choices of where to compress and/or change the novel for the screen were right on the money. I also loved how this version framed the story: The film starts with Jane fleeing Thornfield over the moors and ending up at the Rivers’ house (which actually takes place about two-thirds of the way through the novel). Her arrival and collapse on the doorstep sets in motion the series of flashbacks to her childhood and life at Thornfield. Eventually, the opening shots are matched later in the story as Jane’s tale plays out.
I had a few quibbles with some choices near the end, and Rochester was far too good-looking, but, all in all, they did a really good job with it. The two leads were very believable and Dame Judi Dench was characteristically fabulous as Mrs. Fairfax.
If you are at all a fan of the book, don’t miss this one.