DVD Review: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre DVD boxSTUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Cary Fukunaga | CAST: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Amelia Clarkson, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins, Holliday Grainger, Jamie Bell
RELEASE DATE: 8/16/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray $39.99
BONUSES:
commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes
SPECS: PG-13 | 121 min. | Romantic drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Jane Eyre movie scene

Mia Wasikowska goes Bronte in Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre is a notoriously difficult book to adapt to film, half-dozen Hollywood versions notwithstanding. There are so many discrete segments to the story — each rich with its own setting, plotting and characters — that the time constraints innate in making a feature-length movie seem hardly able to do justice to the full scope of the tale. But director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) comes awfully close to perfection in this version of Charlotte Bronte’s much-loved book.

Typically, when watching the film version of a book I know as well as this one, I find myself regretting the necessary omissions. But Fukunaga has done such a canny job in selecting a handful of representative vignettes from each of the novel’s smaller components that it didn’t occur to me to think about what wasn’t there until well after the film had ended.

This version, which stars Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right) as the titular staunch and spirited governess and Michael Fassbender (Centurion) as the gruff-yet-tender Rochester, has it all: the chilly Reed house (ruled with an iron fist by Made in Dagenham‘s Sally Hawkins as Aunt Reed) where young Jane (played by Amelia Clarkson) grows up; the punitive Lowood School where she comes of age; and the Rochester estate where she befriends the plain-spoken housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax (the always delightful Dame Judi Dench of Nine), and eventually finds love in the arms of her employer. Jane’s interlude among the Rivers clan — St. John (Jamie Bell, The Eagle), Diana (Holliday Grainger) and Mary (Tamzin Merchant) — is used in this adaptation as a framing device for the rest of the story, which is presented in flashback.

It’s the sort of thing that that could have come off gimmicky and insufficient to portray the depth of Jane’s relationships with the Rivers, but Fukunaga makes it work. Perhaps the only moment when I felt taken out of the movie was during a scene where Rochester tells Jane, “I am no more handsome than you are pretty.” It’s a line straight from the book, meant to underscore the wonder that two such physically unlovely characters have nevertheless found such a spiritually profound yet fleshly love with each other. But Fassbender’s delivery comes off more as, “Um…have you seen you?”

Fukunaga also deserves praise for infusing this overtly Gothic tale with enough naturalism to make viewers feel that, yes, we are watching a story about real people in real situations.

The DVD extras are a solid bunch: deleted scenes, a static but succinct audio commentary with Fukunaga, and a trio of featurettes containing interviews with the director, crew and principal actors.

Of these, “To Score Jane Eyre” presents a look at the process of Academy Award winning composer Dario Marianelli (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement), whose haunting score for this film is truly remarkable.

Also of interest is “The Mysterious Light of Jane Eyre” with cinematographer Adriano Goldman (Conviction), who discusses the challenges in lighting the Rochester estate — which is essentially a Gothic haunted mansion — for film while maintaining the spooky darkness of a home that appears to be lit only by single candles or small fires burning in stone fireplaces.

 

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About Gwen

Gwen Cooper is a movie and TV lover and the author of Homer's Odyssey (no, not the one you're thinking of).