The latest Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre (2011)

This latest version is a well-paced trot through the venerable Bildungsroman with two unexpected stars: the English moors, looking as cold and inhospitable as the surface of Mars, and the face of Mia Wasikowska. Denied the narration of the book, hers is not a particularly proactive Jane, but Wasikowska has the quality of cognition, invaluable in a leading actress. Accentuated by a flickering fireplace, you can see her thinking and reacting, even though Michael Fassbender’s Rochester has most of the jaw-time.

The plot whirs along without dwelling much on Jane’s awful childhood and schooling, apart from a brief interlude in the famous window seat where she hides from her cousin John Reed, one of English literature’s prime dicks, who fetches her an awful CGI-enhanced thwack across the head with Bewick’s History of British Birds. The kindly Miss Temple, who clears Jane’s name at Lowood Institution, appears to be M.I.A., but frankly the less time we spend there, the more time we have for tight frock-coats and Byronic teeth-gnashing, way-hey!

Without Jane’s interior monologue, the romance that develops between her and Rochester seems a bit unlikely, apart from their obvious bond as the only two characters in the film capable of introspection. Thankfully it hasn’t been fashionably sexed-up, although with those corsets you’d either need a scene-dissolve or a Quick Unpick to avoid a two-parter. The last twenty minutes efficiently gallop through the ironclad plot, and the only objection I had to the ending is that Rochester’s injuries are less disfiguring than in the book, and there’s a quick blackout instead of the immortal “Reader, I married him.”

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