I’m not a huge fan of the English romantics and to be honest I haven’t read the Bronte novel. Despite my slight aversion to the literature of the period, it’s an observation made mostly from reading Jane Austen novels, and I have a feeling that this differs in perhaps slightly, but rather significant ways.
It begins as a movie made from an English Romantic should–with serious light imagery, sweeping shots of the English countryside and emotional drama. But it is not a typical stoic sort of romance. It begins with Jane (played by Mia Wasikowska) stumbling into the home of strangers, and flashes back to her childhood–filled with horrid instances lacking in love and overflowing with beatings and mistreatments. The story progresses to where she meets Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender), a man who at first appears surly and cold but soon warms to his mousy but pretty governess. Their love develops with twists and turns, and the plot is very much active and surprising, as you will not find in an Austen story. There are the general themes of propriety and withdrawal but they are kept at bay, and don’t overbear.
The cinematography is brilliant and each shot is simply gorgeous–which is all to be expected. The light and dark imagery, the Victorian clothing, furniture and home, the English countryside at dawn and dusk, combined with the stunning looks of both leads lends to the overall beauty of the film. Both are stupendous actors–reserved, yet emotional. Both play their roles perfectly. Rochester’s development from arrogant, skeptic wealthy man to joyful man in love is graduated and reserved, as it should be. Eyre’s personality never really changes, but her struggle between loving the man she knows she should be with and knowing his secrets brilliantly flashes just beneath the surface of her face. Wasikowka’s pale, flawless skin and wide-eyes give her an innocence all too apropos for the role.
The dialogue is stunning–some of the greatest and most romantic lines I’ve heard in all of film. Their courtship, which maintaining distance is not an aggravated affair of cat and mouse, push and pull. It is as it should be, slow, and in the beginning misunderstood, but moves with a momentum well attained and appreciated.
The entire film, which in actuality is about two hours, moves at such a pace that it feels as if minutes have passed when it ends. An absolutely stupendous rendition of Bronte’s work, a beautiful film is all aspects.