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5 stars (out of 5)
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, Amelia Clarkson, Sally Hawkins, Simon McBurney, Freya Parks, Georgia Bourke, Imogen Poots
Jane Eyre is my favourite novel. I read it in one delirious gulp in my early 20s and have never since had the courage to reread it in case it no longer cast the same spell on me.
This latest filmed Jane Eyre (Rialto) astonished and delighted me by summing up the fever that reading induced. Instead of following the novel's order and starting with Jane's horror childhood, the movie begins at fever pitch as a distraught Jane (Mia Wasikowska) flees into the wild moors.
The rest of the story leading to her escape is told in flashback.
As my dominant memory of the novel is an orgy of barely suppressed emotions, this movie suits me fine. It actually has many faults.
Michael Fassbender is a superlative Rochester but only gets a fraction of the screen time he deserves. It is to his credit that we realise why Jane loves his character so, because he certainly gets no help from the script.
The delicious Gothic cliche that Charlotte Bronte invented of the mad woman locked in the attic is also underplayed. But none of the faults matter, because it plunges you immediately into Jane's despair and that heightened emotion carries the entire film.
Best thing: The Derbyshire moors standing in for the more famous Yorkshire ones. They are real eerie country.
Worst thing: I loved this so much that I would only be truly happy with the same cast doing a line-by-line reading that went for at least eight hours.
See it with: A lace-trimmed handkerchief and some smelling salts in your reticule.
- Christine Powely