Jane Eyre Reviews
The camera is a cold, observing eye. We watch these characters from an emotionally remote position in their specific environment. This treatment matches the yet subdued character of the protagonist; It does justice to the cold and loveless biography of the young, intelligent governess trying to move through a harsh life with integrity and self-respect.
But this condition is supposed to turn with her meeting Mr Rochester; somebody who makes her feel recognized and eventually loved. Yet the camera keeps on being a cold observant eye.
Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender are magnificent. However, only in isolaton; they don't work as a couple.
References to Mr Rochester's ugliness and Jane's plainness are deemed ridiculous by the actor's and actress' blatant beauty. These are beautiful people. And it does do something to the story. Due to the lack of indication that there is something happening to the souls of these characters the love story appears like this: Rochester loathes being in Thornfield for a well-known reason. Meeting Jane Eyre is a welcome and unexpected diversion, she talks back to him and she's obviously ravishing. Jane has never been with a man and is easily overwhelmed by masculine and handsome Mr Rochester's approaches. Now, these two fancy each other but cannot consummate because of convention. Jane is too morally rigid, so they will marry.
That these two could be soulmates is only asserted via words - but we never see or feel them connect on that level.
It's a shame that this should be so. The film is beautifully photographed. But the impact of the scenes is not well-balanced, not well done. There's a scene of Jane strolling around in the frosty garden, pained after she has heard that Rochester and Blanche Ingram might be romantically involved. This would have been a great potential of identification had we been given the contrast of Jane being pushed around harshly (which we see executed splendidly in the film) and - Rochester taking to her, touching her soul, lifting her out of isolation for almost the first time in her life (which we don't get to see). How painful to get a taste of what you need most and have it taken away instantly! Instead she ends up exactly as Mrs Fairfax feared: as an inexperienced, naļve girl who fell for a man of the world.
Rochester does not liberate her. She says she lived a full life at Thornfield, yet Jane and he rarely laugh together, their conversation doesn't take flight, the happiness they are supposed to mean to each other appears merely an illusion of two desperate persons.
The filmmakers don't go with the sucker punches of the story. The observant eye remains cold and distant. Even the fulminating proposal is subdued and accompanied by Fassbender's motionless gaze.
In one scene there's even sentimentalism, something a story like this, one should think, would need least.
The drama that ensues after the wedding is rushed just as the shallow reunion. And we're done. Hmph.
A cowardly decision of casting gorgeous people as plain/ugly characters, beautiful photography, the impeccable Judi Dench, capable leads with little chemistry and an underwritten (!) love story.
Here's my wish: Jane Campion as director and Paul Giamatti as Mr Rochester. Too good to become true?