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After a bleak childhood, Jane Eyre goes out into the world to become a governess. As she lives happily in her new position at Thornfield Hall, she meets the dark, cold, and abrupt master of the house, Mr. Rochester. Jane and her employer grow close in friendship and she soon finds herself falling in love with him. Happiness seems to have found Jane at last, but could Mr. Rochester's terrible secret be about to destroy it forever?
For more about Jane Eyre and the Jane Eyre Blu-ray release, see Jane Eyre Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 1, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jamie Bell, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins, Holliday Grainger
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
» See full cast & crew
Jane Eyre Blu-ray Review
Does this 'Jane' err?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 1, 2011
Is it some native preponderance in the souls of the Brontė sisters which made their literary efforts so much darker than their sister-in-arms Jane Austen? Or was it simply the passage of those few decades between Austen's birth and the Brontės' which made the hopeless plight of many (perhaps even most) women in those days seem all the more desperate, leading to a much more sinister aspect in the Brontė offerings than in Austen. Charlotte Brontė's Jane Eyre bears at least some passing similarities to many of Austen's pieces, notably in the trope of the star-crossed lovers thrown together by fate and who develop feelings for each other despite initial misgivings (even outright hatred) and various obstacles set in their way. But both Charlotte and Jane were obviously only too aware of how limited most women's prospects were in their era, aside of course from marrying well. But Austen couched her social criticism with flashes of humor and acerbity while Brontė favored more shadowy and outright Gothic approaches to much the same subject matter. Much like Austen's iconic work, the Brontė sisters have been regularly adapted for both the large and small screen, and probably none more so than Charlotte and Jane Eyre, which has had a glut of adaptations going back to the silent film era. There have been glossy film versions (the Joan Fontaine-Orson Welles version springs instantly to mind) as well as seemingly yearly miniseries adaptations by the likes of the BBC. And so the question must be asked: do we really need another Jane Eyre, especially one-coproduced by BBC Films? The answer, perhaps a little surprisingly, is probably yes, given the sumptuous production this outing receives as well as some interesting deconstruction given the project by scenarist Moira Buffini.
The darkness, both literal and figurative, of Brontė's world is perhaps the most distinctive aspect of this Jane Eyre, other than its perhaps over convoluted disjunctive timeframe scheme which throws flashbacks within flashbacks and varying timelines against the screen, hoping that coherence sticks (a passing knowledge of the novel or at least one of the scores of previous adaptations can be a major help in this regard). This Jane Eyre doesn't just focus on the burgeoning relationship between Rochester (Michael Fassbender) and Jane (Mia Wasikowska). The film picks up about two-thirds of the way through the novel, as odd as that may sound, and then cartwheels through a cascading series of flashbacks and "present day" happenings (notably Jane's relationship with St. John Rivers, played by Jamie Bell), but the overall feeling in the film's opening sequences is incredibly stifling, as if Jane is close to being smothered by her era's mores. Director Cary Fukunaga and DP Adriano Goldman filter these early scenes in cool blues and desaturated grays and pales yellows, as if the color of life, the chance at any vivacity or variety, had been drained out of an entire epoch.
Unlike many of the other adaptations of the source novel, this Jane Eyre doesn't focus on the romance between Jane and Rochester to the point where the novel's several hundred other pages are minimized, if not outright ignored. That's actually one of the interesting thing about this version's peculiar structurestarting quite a way through and then backtrackingas it seems to remove some of the primal focus from the love story angle. This is much more the story of a willful woman attempting to overcome the repressive atmosphere of her era, and Rochester seems to be just one more "issue" with which she has to deal. This Jane Eyre is also noticeably more spooky, with an almost palpable supernatural air and several jump cuts and unexpected sound effects that will probably at the very least startle, if not outright scare, some viewers. While of course there's no denying the romantic angle to this Jane Eyre, it's cloaked in a Gothic atmosphere that makes this almost like a piece from yet another iconic writer, Mary Shelley (of Frankenstein fame).
This Jane Eyre is aided and abetted not just by an interesting screenplay and some very evocative direction, but by a forceful and brilliantly nuanced lead performance by Mia Wasikowska. This isn't the virginal goody-goody girl of some previous Eyres, nor is Jane's headstrong propensity ignored. Jane is smart, willful, stubborn and certainly not afraid to speak her mind, and Wasikowska manages to bring all of these traits to bear on a full-bodied and full-blooded performance, one that still manages to remain true to Jane Eyre's era. While having to portray a more buttoned-down character, Michael Fassbender is also excellent as Rochester, managing the character's churlish side while also managing to reveal his more vulnerable side, especially as the scenario hurtles toward its tragic denouement. Judi Dench doesn't have a lot to work with here, but adds a bit of gravitas and poise to the proceedings as Mrs. Fairfax.
In a situation like this where filmmakers are making the umpteenth iteration of a source novel that a lot of viewers are going to know backwards and forwards, there are a couple of easy traps to fall in. One is playing it too safe, giving the viewer pretty much exactly what they expect and what they've no doubt seen before in any number of previous adaptations. The other extreme is going for something so odd, so bizarrely revamped, that it bears too little resemblance to anything that has gone before. This Jane Eyre rather artfully walks the tightrope between these two extremes. While some may be put off by this disjointed version, one which doesn't stick to a strictly chronological timeline, it introduces a nice holistically psychological approach to Jane's interior life which is quite compelling. Fukunaga invests the film with an enticing visual flair that makes the proceedings both evocative and stylish, making this kind of literally something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
Jane Eyre Blu-ray, Video Quality
Jane Eyre is presented on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. Fukunaga, himself a cinematographer, has purposefully filtered the vast majority of this film in cool blue tones, often with attendant desaturation throughout the rest of the spectrum. That gives this entire Blu-ray an otherworldly look, but it doesn't mean any lack of fine detail. While the natural lighting schemes utilized lead to some fairly regular crush in some of the interior locations, overall the film looks fantastic. Close-ups reveal abundant lines and crinkles in Judi Dench's weathered face, and both sets and costumes' elaborate patterns and cross-hatchings resolve perfectly virtually all of the time. There is some very minor aliasing in some of the location shots on the moors, where the hedgerows and close cropped scrub don't quite resolve authoritatively, but otherwise this is a splendid looking presentation.
Jane Eyre Blu-ray, Audio Quality
You might think that a period drama like Jane Eyre wouldn't provide much opportunity for an involving lossless sound mix, let alone several stunning uses of LFE. You'd think wrong, at least with regard to Jane Eyre's really amazingly well done DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. As Jane wanders through the moors early in the film, we get all sorts of nicely discrete, if subtle, environmental ambient sounds mixed in with Dario Marianelli's evocative, string heavy score. But at least twice in the film some unexpected LFE thumps into the soundfield in something akin to shock cuts in horror films, upping the Gothic feel of this adaptation immensely. Dialogue is very well mixed and throughout the film sound effects are positioned very smartly around the soundfield, with excellent fidelity and superb dynamic range.
Jane Eyre Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Jane Eyre Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Probably most of you have seen at least one Jane Eyre in your lifetime, and some of you have quite possibly seen several. So why spend another couple of hours on a "new, improved" one? First of all, the deliberately skewed structure of this one makes for a very interesting experience, one which thrusts various timelines up against each other to sometimes startling effect. But this version also features a standout performance by Wasikowska (I personally wouldn't be surprised to see her among next year's Best Actress Oscar nominees for this film) and a really beautifully helmed production by Fukunaga. You may indeed have seen (or read) this story, but never quite like this way. Recommended.
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Jane Eyre Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Jane Eyre Blu-ray - June 15, 2011
This August, Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings director Cary Fukunaga's bold adaptation of Jane Eyre to Blu-ray. Starring Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right) as Jane and Michael Fassbender (Hunger) as the mysterious Mr. Rochester, Fukunaga's film ...
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