Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jane Eyre (2011) – Review

Jane Eyre is a brilliantly made atmospherically gothic film (much like the novel), that utilizes strong direction and performances. Director Cary Fukunaga takes more of a modern approach to the film, as he structures the narrative to jump around in the timeline, unraveling Jane’s story bit by bit. This is an effective technique, as the viewer really sees the development of Jane’s character – showing where she is now and then how she got there. As the novel by Charlotte Bronte is fairly famous, many viewers will already know the story making this structure all the more interesting. Fukunaga seems to be very interested in Jane’s strength and who she is as a young adult (as most of the film focuses on that section of her story) – what gives her the ability to overcome and succeed even in the face of an oppressive social structure and a tragic childhood. The opening shot of the film shows Jane in tears running away from Thornfield Hall through the elements, willing herself to get away and survive both the heartache as well as the physical abuse of the cold and rain. The feminist tones in the book also present themselves in Jane, as she wishes for a life of action (to be more like a man, in terms of options for her life). She is in constant internal struggle as she is skeptical of relationships with others, given her sad abusive and lonely past. She is accustom to being nothing and alone (even accepting it as a lifelong reality) while desperately longing for more. Fukunaga’s narrative and focus is on Jane’s triumph of character, which in terms makes the film very powerful and moving. However, Jane is reclusive and plain by choice – hiding her emotions the best she can, which results in a deliberately nuanced and slowly building narrative and performance (which certainly will not translate well for all viewers). Fukunaga also gets away from some of the more theatrical versions of the story by completely emerging the feel and look of the film in the natural world and the story’s period. The performances are very real and feel organic, not as though they are a performance to be given but rather the actual real characters saying what occurs to them at the moment (which, a credit to screenwriter Moira Buffini, is quite articulate and eloquent, but works very well – the use of language in the film is wonderful). The look of the film is very appropriate, as Fukunaga exclusively uses natural light (much like Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon) with most of the scenes lite by candle light or sunlight. This give the film a very authentic and period vibe, and plays well with the gothic theme and tone present in the novel (and this film). The production design and locations furthers the authenticity, while the locations chosen plays off the cold and lonely world that Jane lives in, as structures are surrounded by nothing but beaten and ravished marsh lands or gloomy and scary forests appearing all to be very solidary. The score also extenuates the gothic and gloomy aspects of the film, while also beautifully capturing the love story that develops in spite of all the hardship. Jane Eyre is truly an exquisite piece of filmmaking.

Technical and acting achievements: director Cary Fukunaga is certainly establishing himself as someone to watch. Jane Eyre is his second film (out of two) to be both dramatically engaging and delicately beautiful. I look forward to his future work. All the technical aspects of the film are extraordinarily well done – Adriano Goldman’s cinematography is moody, as it shows off the quite beauty of Jane while also crushing her spirit (if only for a moment) with its cold and dark landscapes and brooding interiors. Will Hughes-Jones’s production design and Michael O’Conner’s costume design exacerbate the cold, dark and restrictive life of that period, giving the film a high level of realism, but also allow for moments of beauty and warmth to  sneak in too (much like Goldman’s cinematography). However, among all the fantastic work, Dario Marianelli’s beautiful, scary and powerful score stands atop the list of the wonderful aesthetics the film offers. The cast in the film is very fitting, each delivering the good work that their talent dictates. Amelia Clarkson is wonderful as Young Jane. She is resilient and strong in the face of nothing but cruelty and despise. Michael Fassbender, a budding star for sure, is powerful and stern yet romanticism slowly chips away revealing a caring and loving interior. And finally, Mia Wasikowska is perfect as Jane. She is strong but cautiously reclusive, reluctant to let any emotion slip, which plays out in a bewitchingly nuanced performance.

This telling of Jane Eyre is not for everyone. It is completely immersed in its naturalistic approach. But for those who appreciate magnificent performances and aesthetics, this is a film you cannot miss. 9/10

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