DVD review: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre

Directed by: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Dame Judi Dench

At first glance, an American director (of Swedish and Japanese descent) taking on one of the seminal English novels of the nineteenth century seems like a terrible idea.

After all, it seems like every great adaptation of British literature - especially that of the Bronte sisters or Jane Austen - has been made by British film-makers.

For the uninitiated, Jane Eyre follows the titular character (played here by Mia Wasikowska) through five distinct stages of her life, starting with her childhood and education, and continuing into her adult life as a governess in the household of Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester (played here by the fantastic Michael Fassbender).

Charlotte Bronte's novel is often hailed as being ahead of its time, paving the way for later feminist movements by exploring themes like gender relations, morality and love.

At the same time, Jane Eyre has been adapted numerous times - at least 15 different film versions exist. Perhaps an American-Japanese-Swedish point of view was exactly what we needed?

On the evidence presented here, that would certainly appear to be the case.

Fukunaga has a remarkable ability to find a shot that looks incredible, but also serves the story; the use of light and dark is haunting, shimmering candlelight barely allowing the faces of his cast to register, while the low contrast, washed out colours of the outdoor scenes give the film an otherworldly feel that seems to match the daydream-like nature of the story.

Moira Buffini's script also does a great job manipulating the order of events in the story. Most adaptations of Jane Eyre tell the story in chronological order, where Fukunaga's adaptation opens with the fourth stage of the story (Jane arriving at the home of St John Rivers) and telling the preceding events through flashbacks.

It's a clever way to modernise the film while maintaining high period production values.

This is a wonderful movie, a coming-of-age romance that is as relevant in 2012 as it was when Bronte wrote the story in 1847 - in the age of Jersey Shore and quick-fire celebrity weddings, it might be a timely reminder that love is something much deeper, that relationships can be established with both parties on an equal footing, and that marriage is not a decision to take lightly. Highly recommended.

Special Features include: Deleted Scenes; 3 x Featurettes; Commentary with director Cary Fukunaga; and Commentary with Rob Meyer & Ameer Youssef.