Having forfeited to pursue English Literature at GCSE and A-Level suffice to say it's not until recently I've had any desired to read Charlotte Bronte's Gothic, masterpiece, Jane Eyre. Even at that getting it for free on my Kindle e-reader is perhaps the only thing that's even really made me peaked my interest. Now that doesn't really matter - says the ignorant film critic - because here's a brand new film adaptation from the director 2009's excellent, Sin Nombre, Cary Fukunaga. Now isn't that handy...
If you've read the book or seen the countless adaptations over the years, you'll already know the story. For those who don't it tells of the trails and tribulations of Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikoska) from her miserable upbringing with her wicked aunt who banished her to a horrible boarding school all the way to her time in the employment of one Mr Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender).
Inevitably, as is the case with most of these costumed affairs, Rochester and Eyre strike up a curious connection and so unravels one of the greatest love stories ever committed to paper. However the real beauty, like in any great story, lies in the secrets which are buried beneath, which I shan't spoil for those philistines such as myself who failed to read the book before entry to the cinema.
I was perhaps less than unkind to Mia Wasikoska when reviewing her Alice in Wonderland last year - describing her as having as much charisma as my left foot, if memory serves me right - but have since realised her talent after becoming enthralled in the brilliant HBO series, In Treatment. Starring as the title character she added a real level of depth to her performance, strong, witty and passionate while at the same time quite a tragic, suppressed and disturbed soul.
Likewise Michael Fassbender brought his signature intensity, which has won him plaudits in so many films over the last five years, to the role of Mr Rochester. Though maybe not matching Colin Firth's Mr Darcy in the BBC's institutional adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, still I can only imagine he will leave thousands of ladies across the world swooning in delight once the credits roll. The supporting turns were also as classy and elegant as their leads, with brilliant performances from Judi Dench, Jamie Bell and the particularly and the, albeit too brief, appearance of the slimy Simon McBurney.
I can't speak for the tone of the book, but the atmosphere created in the film was completely sublime to experience on the big screen. Fukunaga treats the audience to these striking, bleak, majestic landscapes and towering gothic structures. What sets it apart from these drab costume dramas I've been subjected to over the years - mostly against my own will - was this rather peculiar sense you were watching a period horror film with some distant ghostly sounds and stylish camera work. Dario Marianelli's score is seamlessly embedded into the feature just as his work on similar films such as Atonement and Pride and Prejudice did in the past.
How it holds up to past adaptations or its source material isn't for me to say, however I can tell you the Jane Eyre of 2011 is a dark, intense, brooding piece of Gothic romance which strikes a captivating balance between a costumed drama and some atmospheric, humanistic, horror tale so brilliantly. Even if you aren't a fan of this genre of film, I encourage you to give it a chance. You may be shockingly surprised.
Jane Eyre is in cinemas across the UK from September 9th, 2011.