Attention all Jane Eyre fans: the American release date of the new film version of Jane Eyre, directed by Cary Fukunaga and starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender has been announced as March 11, 2011.
There have been numerous film and television versions of Charlotte Bronte’s classic romance. On film, 1934, 1944 (the classic with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine), 1970 (with George C. Scott and Susannah York), and 1997. There have been numerous television productions, beginning in 1947, with Charlton Heston as a much-too-young Mr. Rochester. Most Eyre-Heads agree that the best television production was the 1973 miniseries starring Sorcha Cusak and Michael Jayston.
The trailer is out for the new film and it looks fairly interesting. Fukunaga takes a different perspective on the story, focusing on the darker side of a lonely governess living in a mansion with a mysterious, and dangerous, secret. The film is supposed to begin with our heroine running away from Thornfield Hall after learning what the secret is, a secret that fractures her relationship with the master she’s fallen in love with. Apparently, the story is told in flashbacks as Jane recovers from near starvation at a pastor’s home.
Wasikowska (who is Australian) is quite a good fit for the part. They don’t paint her too pretty in order to satisfy squeamish audiences. In the trailer, she looks, sounds, and acts the right age for Jane Eyre (18 – the actress is about 21). Some actresses who’ve taken on the part have been either too old, too tall, or too pretty for the part.
Fassbender looks a bit slim and so, a little young, to be Mr. Rochester but judging by the trailer, he’s got it where it counts. And then there’s Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax. This must be a much wiser and savvier Mrs. Fairfax than the housekeeper Charlotte Bronte wrote about. There’s nothing “simple” about Judi Dench, so this should be an interesting performance.
I fell in love with this book when I read it at age 14, as an English class assignment. I read it in one afternoon. I’ve worn out about five copies of the book. I’m looking forward to this movie. It holds promise of some scenes that are only alluded to in the book and generally haven’t been dramatized in productions. Especially interesting will be the scene where Mr. Rochester discovers Jane has fled. Thank goodness. I hope they deal a little more closely with the burning of Thornfield and Mr. Rochester’s heroics in that fire.
If this production doesn’t maybe some future production will. Bronte left a little wiggle room in the climax, where Jane flees. The narrative suggests obliquely that some occurrence requires Jane’s immediate presence and it is then that Rochester discovers she’s gone. Logic would suggest that the lawyer Briggs shows up the next morning to inform Jane of her uncle’s death. Briggs would undoubtedly know of the existence of the Rivers cousins, since he must inform them that they’re out of luck. Bronte didn’t delve too deeply into that aspect, lest she spoil the fate she has in store for Rochester. A simple question of Briggs – who else is named in the will and where do they live – would have given Rochester the clue he needed to find her.
But whatever the case, the director adds a new depth of spookiness and suspense to the much-loved novel.
There’s just one thing that I hope – that they don’t have Rochester throw himself on his couch, like a drama queen when Jane tells him he’s history. One of the versions tried remaining faithful to that description and it was so embarrassing. I hope they leave poor Mr. Rochester a little dignity, as they did in most of the other adaptations. Boys are willing to give Jane Eyre a chance – until they get to that scene – and then they’re done.
We Eyre-Heads will be brooding until March 11th.