First off, I must confess that I bought the book 11 years ago, but it sat on my shelf or packed in a box for the whole time; that is, until I watched this version. It may be 600+ pages, but I highly recommend taking the time to read it!
Also, if you're interested in a semi-biographical summary of Charlotte and her family's life, you might want check out the BBC docu-drama "In Search of the Brontës" - starring Victoria Hamilton as Charlotte.
Contrary to this movies preview trailers, there really is no added "preternatural" elements at least in the movie itself (which truth be told, was what put me off from watching it right away). *Although, 2 of the deleted scenes have it (specifically the extended scene when Jane is leaving Thornfield Manor, and her lengthened wandering on the moors).*
...If that's what you're looking for, you'll be sure to find it in "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë.
(**Semi-Spoiler**: The movie starts off, basically in the middle or last two thirds of the book. Which may be a bit confusing to those unfamiliar with the story. I did read a review though, of a person who went to this film festival, and heard first hand the script writers (Moira Buffini) interpretation of why she chose to write the story the way she did, and the reason the movie starts with Jane leaving Thornfield, is so the viewer could be pulled into Jane's story right away.)
Ideally, it would have been nice if they gave at least 20+ minutes more time to showcase the deeper conversations that Rochester & Jane had, and to prove that it was more than a sudden infatuation that spurred the proceeding relationship (despite their 20 year age difference).
As noted earlier, the novel is some 500+ pages, so really only a miniseries could do it proper justice.
However, as a stand alone (2 hour) m-o-v-i-e, all that could be condensed into that time frame without seeming too disjointed, or confusing- was. In my opinion, it captured the essence of the story quite well!
I particularly enjoyed the scenery, costumes, cinematography, musical score. And last but not least, the cast- especially the leads: Michael Fassbender, & Mia Wasikowska, whose portrayals resonated with me more than most (if not all) of the previous I've seen. Dame Judi Dench is my favorite Mrs. Fairfax to date!
Just a quick mention... There's a lot of interesting interviews on YT with the director, and cast. I just finished watching one called "Q&A with Director Cary Fukunaga and Actress Mia Wasikowska Interview Part 1" filmed March 1, 2011 in front of a live audience (pt. 2 being a Q&A with the audience themselves). If you fast-forward to 5:10 you'll hear his take on how he approached the film.
Because of the time constraint, here are some of the more notable omissions/changes (**SPOILER ALERT**):
- Grace Poole (Bertha's nurse). She was given about 1 minute screen time. In the book she was mentioned, and seen by Jane (as well has had a conversation with) before the whole revelation.
- Various extended conversations between Rochester & Jane (namely the proposal, before Jane's leaving Thornfield, and their reunion at the end).
- They should have kept one or two of the "deleted scenes" (included on the disc). Specifically the (Jane/Rochester) "Badminton in the Garden" conversation; and if not the whole veil ripping scene, at least the part where Jane's recounts it to Rochester, and his response.
- The Rochester "Gypsy" scene was missing (Rochester's attempt at ascertaining Jane's true feelings towards him).
I realize this is probably a difficult scene-- likely one that would require multiple re-takes because I can imagine it would be hard for the leads to keep a straight face during it.
Both Michael Jayston ('73), and Timothy Dalton ('83) managed to pull it off, but it would have been interesting to see another attempt (even if it ended up as a bonus "deleted scene").
- Also, it could have been made clear as to who the Rivers siblings were in relation to Jane (cousins); which was what ultimately prompted her to divide her 20,000 pound (equal to 1.7 million pounds, or $14.0 million USD in today's value) inheritance equally between herself and the 3 of them.
- The tweaked ending (Mrs. Fairfax moved away after the fire; book ending location: Ferndean manor -neither of which are major issues, but worth a mention. Also, Rochester not only lost his sight, but he also lost a hand and an eye in the fire- which only the '83 has yet to faithfully show), and again- REALLY shortened dialogue.
If you're not willing to read the whole book, I recommend the following chapters (which can be found online for free):
- 14 (Second Rochester/Jane conversation--Insight into their characters nature)
- 15 (Rochester's Celine Varens revelation; the fire)
- 19 (Rochester as the old Gypsy lady)
- 20 (Mason attacked; Sunrise garden conversation)
- 23 (Proposal)
- 27 (Jane/Rochester conversation before she leaves Thornfield)
- 37 & 38 (Jane's return, and reconciliation with Rochester)
In conclusion, if you're looking for a stand alone movie of "Jane Eyre", this is definitely worth viewing.
Otherwise, I recommend checking out one of the 3 BBC miniseries (1973, 1983, or 2007).
I've seen all 3, and feel the 1973 & 83 are truest to the book. While productions from this era are theatrical/stagy, with unforgiving lighting, and a bit of a hollow sounding echo they still have their merits. Personally I enjoyed the acting of the '73 over the '83.
The 2007 will likely appeal to audiences that like the modern cinema & acting experience, but it lacks the exact book dialogue (a bit "dumbed down"). There is also 3 notable changes made to the story line that I did not care for at all (**Semi Spoiler**: the worst offender being the scene between Rochester/Jane before she leaves Thornfield-- it's sadly spiced up, cheapened, utterly gratuitous, and very untrue to the book). I also felt that the actor playing Mr. Rochester (Toby Stephens) wasn't as suited for the part as MJ or MF.