The Melbourne International Film Festival
(MIFF) is in its glorious 60th year and if the initial below is a review for just one of many diverse films screening.
Jane Eyre, unwanted as a child and brought up in a terribly bleak children's home is eventually sent to Thornfield Hall to become a governess. There, she tutors the daughter of the cold and bitter Mr. Rochester, whom she develops complex feelings for. When all seems well, Jane finds only at the last minute, a terrible secret in the manor and this changes everything.
The blackness, it is barren and hopeless. The echoed, hollow voices through the harsh whistling wind narrate her defeated situation; this is how Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre begins. The original novel is equally dark and callous in nature, but Fukunaga starts the tale closer to the end. It is a jarring unnerving and wholly convincing start that seemingly shatters most expectations of a period drama.
Mia Wasikowska plays Jane Eyre with both determination and meekness. She juggles the dual role of this complicated woman with ease, and depicts her as a broken character, sometimes despondent and often unwilling, but still conscientious in her values and morals. She endures her childhood and Fukunaga depicts it without flinching; as a young girl she is beaten, her bloody head is fully revealed after she is blamed without question for the conflict imposed on her, and locked away. It is striking, harsh violence that accompanies Jane Eyre, it comes without warning and adds values to the overarching elements of judgment and dark forces, particularly as a child where she is oftentimes punished and made to do demeaning things. Jane Eyre is all fire and brimstone, fanatical old-school Christian elements pervade it, but Jane makes light of such forces, seemingly scoffing at it, although the scars behind her eyes are evident.
It does not focus too long on her tumultuous childhood however before she is serving under Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench) who seldom plays the comic relief, wittily defrauding her own household, oftentimes without realising it. She is also quite nosy but ultimately harmless and genuinely tries to help Jane. When Jane first arrives, Mrs. Fairfax leads her through the gargantuan gothic structure that is Thornfield Hall, a character of its own. The lighting in the house is brilliant; the flickering light from the hand torches and lamps dimly reflect off the walls and furniture and perfectly capture the mood of this dark, powerful and mysterious place.
Michael Fassbender, brilliant as always, gives a brooding performance as Mr. Rochester master of the house. He is extremely sarcastic, cynical, bitter, direct and blunt, and this is all captured in his first encounter with Jane. The complexity of his relationship with her is captured perfectly. This is particularly the case in the fire scene; he rushes off to extinguish the flames and leaves Jane in his bedroom, there she waits for his return, her longing is portrayed beautifully as night turns to early morning and she remains.
Things go bump in the night in Jane Eyre. As Jane begins to find the house accommodating strange things begin to happen, such as the aforementioned fire, Mr. Rochester's mysterious scar and his friend's vicious assault. For those not familiar with the book, this particular mystery just adds to an already captivating drama.
Jane Eyre is a wholly affecting gothic romance; the leads are strong, the mood and atmosphere overwhelming and the sexual undertones completely entrancing. The tale begins near the end, and picks up near the end. Jane has come full circle and the revelatory ending is both powerful and quiet. It is her underlying, undying stubborn love for Mr. Rochester that remains, and the way Fukunaga brings the film to this point, the perfect conclusion, is breathtaking. Not your typical period drama, Jane Eyre combines the best of the book and Fukunaga's own focus on strong emotions to deliver a completely satisfying and evocative film.