Compared to the lavish, big studio productions of Jane Eyre (there have been almost a dozen), this version is nearly minimalist. Instead of Orson Welles brooding in front of a chiaroscuro fireplace, we get a girl (Mia Wasikowska) running desperately across a heath, stumbling in mud and finding her way to an outlying farm house where three siblings nurse her back to the world, give her a job and the only taste of independence she’s ever known. Her numb gratitude soon gives way to memories, which all tend towards Rochester (Michael Fassbender), and her recalled life appears shot either with available light or in shadows and candles. Thus we become swept into the Mother of All Romance Novels — working girl and landed gentry, the madwoman upstairs and the immediate and unlikely joy we’re meant to share when worlds are bridged and the marriage of true minds overcomes impediments — with a small ironic twist.
In this version, with its earthy flavorings, the sublime thrills are almost electric. Director Cary Fukunanga (Sin Nombre) makes sure that we feel the unbelievable weight of Jane’s fate after Rochester’s kiss. In the next minute, we feel anything is possible. And of course, things do get very weird.
Maybe it isn’t the most memorable film of the year, but Jane Eyre muscles past the countless anemic literary adaptations we sit through hoping for a true flavor of the original. This is Jane seen both faithfully and originally — and it’s a lot of fun too.