And…the temperature of my Fassbender Fever continues to rise. In the most recent adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, director Cary Fukunaga is blessed to have the ever-impressive Michael Fassbender playing the charismatic ~ and enigmatic ~ Mr. Rochester alongside the equally talented Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right) as the title character. Both actors are more than up to the task of portraying these classic literary characters in this bewitching rendering of the gothic mystery/romance.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit (not without a modicum of shame), that I have never read Jane Eyre, nor do I recall seeing any of the umpteen film or television adaptations that have been produced of it over the years. So this was my very first introduction to the well-known work…which I’ll admit probably helped rather than hurt my experience of it. Granted, making the acquaintance of Mr. Rochester in the form of the magnetic Michael Fassbender did nothing to harm it, either. But again, just as in my review of Fish Tank, I sincerely believe I am capable of distinguishing between my love for Fassbender and the true quality of a film ~ and this is a beautifully done picture in every sense.
I was swept away by the film, nearly forgetting I was watching performances, a particularly impressive feat when it comes to period pieces, when one must adjust to the more formal language of the time. The majestic English landscapes (both lush and barren) gorgeously evoke the sweeping emotions of the narrative, especially those of the wonderfully rich character of Jane. Save for the flashbacks of her as a child, Wasikowska is in virtually every scene of the film. She is superb as the restrained Jane, more often than not conveying her thoughts and feelings through the most subtle of facial expressions and body language. Jane is a remarkably strong, honorable and admirably self-respecting young woman ~ it is impossible not to root for her or to feel her pain, joys and sorrows. It’s not often in a period piece one has the opportunity to see such an independent female character, one who is left to fend for herself from a young age…all of which underscores the desire to see her find true happiness.
Which is what makes it that much sweeter (and titillating) when the mutual attraction between the “common and plain”, yet bright and headstrong Jane and the handsome, aristocratic, unpredictably irascible Rochester becomes apparent. It’s always refreshing to be reminded how much “heat” can be generated on screen between two people through mere words, a glance or a simple touch. There were moments between them that left me breathless, heart pounding, proving it’s not necessary for Fassbender to be undressed (or “in the act”) in order to get my blood racing! All it takes is that penetrating gaze of his long-lashed clear blue eyes, that seductive voice, that captivating presence and I’m a goner. I don’t remember the last time an actor had quite this effect on me…Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise? Clive Owen in Closer? Certainly no one has come close in years…
It’s also refreshing to be reminded of the timeless art of good storytelling. I don’t know how the book is laid out, but in the film there is much chronological hopscotch (flashbacks and flash forwards), with all the twists and turns of a modern day drama, though thankfully one devoid of needless violence, car chases, explosions or gratuitous sex. This movie captivates purely through story, intricately developed characters and dialogue alone ~ no need for filler. Moira Buffini did an impressive job of adapting the novel for the screen. The spare, string-heavy, hauntingly lovely score by Dario Marianelli (who won an Oscar for his brilliant score for Atonement) also deserves a mention.
Imagine what a killing the Brontës and Jane Austens could have made from film deals had they been alive today. I hope they’re not rolling over in their graves at the adaptations that have been done of their works, but are rather delighting in the longevity and re-imaginings of their literary works. I would like to think that this particular adaptation put a satisfied smile on Charlotte’s face.
It certainly did on mine. I genuinely loved this Jane Eyre, enough so that I am now inspired to finally read the book. And I am perfectly happy to have my image of Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester already firmly ingrained in my mind’s eye. Thank you, Michael, for your spellbinding portrayal of
the my ideal Mr. Rochester. In all seriousness, I highly recommend this film regardless of whether you’re stricken with the same “ailment” I have or not. It is a masterful production of a timeless classic.