Friday, June 22, 2012

Watching Jane Eyre (2011)

Do I have thoughts and opinions on the newest adaptation of Jane Eyre? Of course, I do!!! But they have calmed down a little since my first viewing of the film last fall.  My first impression was that it was a horrible adaptation. It felt like they shuffled the pages of the script and didn't care to sort them out properly again. I just didn't understand why anyone would want to play around with the timeline and pacing. Why start the movie with Jane Eyre on the run? Why put viewers on the same page with the Rivers family? Why start there?! If you've never read Jane Eyre--never seen a movie version--it could prove VERY confusing to say the least. And I can only guess that it would influence one's impression of Mr. Rochester when we do finally meet him. Knowing from the start that this love story ends badly--with tears, angst, desperation, she's RUNNING away, etc.

Would this movie make any sense at all if you'd never read Jane? Is there enough of a story there for viewers to piece together the proper story? I can never answer that because I've read Jane Eyre and I've seen Jane Eyre countless times. I didn't necessarily find it confusing--in terms of story--more puzzling in terms of WHY did they choose to interpret it this way? The two are not the same, I know!!! The story does feel rushed, in a way, especially if you're more accustomed to a longer adaptation (2006, 1983, 1973). But it doesn't feel AS rushed as it used to feel to me since I've seen other adaptations that were comparable in length (1944, 1996, 1997, 1970). And compared to the hour-long adaptations I've seen (1934, 1949) this one was so much better.

My first impression of Michael Fassbender in the role of Mr. Rochester was not favorable. Seeing it again, I've softened a little. At first, I thought he got so little time on screen that it would be absolutely impossible to like him--or love him--for his character, personality, charisma, whatever you want to call it. But. Now that I've seen some other (shorter) Jane Eyre adaptations, I realize that it's not so horrible after all. Other adaptations--longer adaptations--give you MORE to love, perhaps. They may add different dimensions to the character of Mr. Rochester--for better or worse--and have their own way of interpreting Mr. Rochester, bringing him to life from the pages of a novel. But I think he does try. One reason why I had such a strong dislike for this portrayal was in how he chose to "react" to Jane's resolution to leave. His anger, his violence, his temper was SO out of control, so over the top. But having seen the 1997 film starring Ciaran Hinds, I have a different perspective. His rage doesn't seem as over-the-top to me because Hinds performance was even worse. Granted, I still don't "like" this scene; it still makes me uncomfortable. But I've seen worse now.

My first impression of Mia Wasikowska in the role of Jane Eyre was not the best either. I didn't dislike her by any means. The problem was that she didn't leave much of an impression at all--either good or bad. She just left me indifferent. How do I feel now? Well, I can say with absolute confidence that she is so much better (or better suited) in the role than Susannah York, Mary Sinclair, and Virginia Bruce. She at least feels like she belongs to this story. And while she may not have amazed me with her performance, she does a good job. Nothing in her portrayal of Jane is unbelievable or out of character. Nothing she adds to the role offends in any way.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


SheepLovegoodTea 10:17 AM  

So overall would you recommend this version?
I heard about it and although have recently thought Michael Fassbender has done amazingly well in other films I didn't want to watch his version of Mr Rochester in case my impressions of him and of the story changed.

Becky 10:26 AM  

It's hard for me to say really. Because I can see some strengths to it--filming, costumes, soundtrack--but I also see weaknesses too. For viewers who want a Mr. Rochester to say everything and do everything he does in the book itself, they will probably be disappointed. I would say approached with low expectations, this one could work for you. Don't expect it to be the best Jane Eyre ever, ever, ever, ever...and you'll enjoy it for what it is instead of seeing it for what it isn't.

Mandy 10:26 AM  

I really, really didn't like this version when I watched it... I might have to give it another go though! :)

Karen K. 8:53 PM  

I was disappointed -- the acting was fine, but I hated the abrupt ending and I felt like they left so much out of the book. Judi Dench was the best thing about it.

I haven't seen the Ciaran Hinds version, but I'm disappointed that he wasn't a good Rochester. I've loved him in so many other things, especially Persuasion, my favorite Jane Austen adaptation. Too bad.

Tasha B. 11:17 PM  

This is personally the worst adaptation I've seen, but I haven't watched the others you mentioned (except the Ciaran Hinds version). I thought it was HORRIBLE, and I hated Fassbender. What about the scene where he practically strangles Jane? RIDICULOUS.

Becky 12:08 AM  

Tasha. I thought the 2011 adaptation was definitely disappointing. I thought Fassbender was violent and out of control after the big reveal, it was a very shocking interpretation to me actually. I never would have thought of that! Then I watched Ciaran Hinds' adaptation, and it felt even worse to me than Fassbender's. (Though they could be about the same. Still, both are very inappropriate.) The good news, however, is that watching the 2011 film made me pick up the book again (it had been about two or three years since I read it), and it also made me ORDER the 1983 adaptation. Which was one of the best decisions ever!!! Because of this horrible adaptation, I found one of the best adaptations!

I think *if* that one scene had been interpreted differently, I think the 2011 adaptation wouldn't be so not-for-me. (That, and I think it needs an actual ENDING.)

Kailana 4:24 AM  

This is the only version of Jane Eyre I have actually seen. It was not the best thing ever, but I did enjoy it. One day I will have to check out some earlier versions.

Becky 2:33 PM  

Mandy, I actually liked it a little better the second time around. This could be because my expectations were already lowered and I knew not to expect it to be oh-so-magical. I tried to look for what they did right instead of focusing solely on what they got wrong. It also helps that I viewed this one after watching so many other versions, when the only other versions you've seen are good--like the 2006 one, or, the 1983 one--then this one seems so awful in comparison.

Karen K, I had HIGH expectations for Ciaran Hinds. I really, truly did. I thought he was PERFECT, absolutely PERFECT in Persuasion. I mean he was so giddy-making as Captain Wentworth, and I thought he would be a swoon-worthy Rochester. It didn't work for me personally, he says the right words, perhaps, but he seems to almost be yelling his lines. And he tried a little too hard, perhaps, to be mean and grouchy. And then there is one scene that just ruined his portrayal for me. It may not ruin other viewers, however, remember it is all completely subjective, and you may love HInds as Rochester if you get the chance to watch it. I do recommend still watching that adaptation because Samantha Morton is absolutely wonderful as Jane!!!

Oh, about the ending, I HATED the ending, I absolutely HATED the non-ending. I think of it now as the blink-and-you'll-miss-it-ending. Truly not deserving, in my opinion. There are some great endings out there, this was about as bad as it could get. The only one that comes close to matching it is the 1970 ending.

Kailana, I think it is enjoyable enough, in a way. I've now watched Jane Eyre ten times--eight which I'd feel comfortable recommending, though maybe just seven when all is said and done. And almost every adaptation has something enjoyable about it to offer viewers. It may change things, it may not be as faithful as possible. But if you look for the strengths in each adaptation instead of focusing only on the weaknesses, you'll find something positive to say about each one.

Susan 10:19 PM  

Becky, who is in the 1983 version again? Timothy Dalton? Darn, I'm sure I've seen it, but so long ago that all I can really see is Dalton's smile in my mind!

I agree that Mia W. in the role of Jane in the 2011 version is a little weak - and like I said last week, I hated how they cut up her time in the orphanage. She seemed so passive at times, so restrained, and yet that's not Jane in the book at all. Plus she lets Simon tell her what to do, which Jane doesn't like. I thought Michael Fassbender did well in this role. I'll have to go hunt for a copy of the 1983 version to compare to this one again, to see which one is a better Rochester :-)

I liked the Ciaran HInds version very much until I saw William Hurt (gosh, is that the 1983 or 1976 version) and realized that he was over the top, because Hurt was so restrained. Samantha Morton for me has been the best Jane, of all of them.

Juli Rahel 4:35 AM  

I was also really confused as to why you would wish to change the structure of the movie! The novel is so brilliant at building suspense and by letting the audience know from the start it doesn't end well you create a dreadful feeling of misery and watching Jane and Rochester together is nowhere near as endearing as it could be.

I do agree that Fassbender was a bit aggressive in that scene but I somehow liked it. Rochester there loses what he sees as his redemption and I therefore understand his interpretation. I thought Mia Wasikowska was a bit bland, especially in the 'I have as much soul' scene. It just seemed to placid and quiet. But this might also be due to the fact that I thought the colour scheme for the movie was to grey and white. This might not be accurate at all, but for me, that is the impression that remains!

So over all, I agree with you ;)

Becky 9:39 AM  

Susan, You'll have to let me know what you think of the 1983 version!!! I really enjoyed the 1996 (William Hurt) adaptation. I just LOVED the beautiful soundtrack. And I really enjoyed both Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt. While it did take some liberties with the plot--for example, having Thornfield burn down literally within minutes of Jane Eyre leaving Mr. Rochester and having Mr. Rochester have to choose between returning to his burning home or chasing the carriage carrying Jane--I thought it was a good film. Much more enjoyable, in my opinion, than the 2011 film. But that could be just me, I know. I do think the 1997 adaptation is worth watching just for Samantha Morton!!!! She is very nearly perfect in the role!

Juli, I agree! I think it kills the suspense and doesn't allow it to build properly. And I do think it taints the impression of Mr. Rochester. Mia isn't my favorite Jane, though her clothes are lovely in this film.

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