While it seems as though there have been umpteen versions of Charlotte Bronte's classic and much-loved novel, it is surprising to learn that Jane Eyre has only been adapted for the big screen three times, the most recent of which was Franco Zeffirelli's 1996 version, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, William Hurt and (lamentably) Elle McPherson.
The 2011 version, directed by Cary Fukunaga in a 180 degree change of pace from his previous film Sin Nombre (2009), also has an Aussie connection - Mia Wasikowska in the title role - and much like Gainsbourg who played the titular role, the Australian has that necessary quality of being both plain and attractive when needed, and sometimes simultaneously.
Wasikowksa is equally matched by Englishman Michael Fassbender as Rochester, fast becoming the thinking woman's heartthrob and many directors' leading man of choice following roles in films such as Hunger (2008), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Fish Tank (2009) and this week's blockbuster release, X-Men: First Class.
While I can understand the appeal of Fassbender, and many a woman and man will attest to his swoon-inducing powers, I didn't feel any great passion between Jane and Rochester but maybe that's just me. But I'm a sucker for a good period drama/literary adaptation and Fukunaga's Jane Eyre (penned by Moira Boffini) is certainly that, featuring bonnets, stunning locales, misty moors and a top notch English cast, including Sally Hawkins, Jamie Bell and Judi Dench.
I also like that Fukunaga and Boffini open the film more than half way through the novel, then flashback to Jane's unhappy childhood, Dickensian education and her coming to and departure from Rochester's Thornfield home. Literary purists may shudder but anything to shake up the tried and true (ie tired) is fine by me.
Jane Eyre opens in Australian cinemas August 11. A full review will be posted on The LennoX Files closer to its release.