By Mark HadleyFriday 12 Aug 2011
Distributor: NBC Universal
Release Date: August 11
Jane Eyre is a gorgeous period drama that is certain to be a hit with fans of modern remakes like Pride and Prejudice and Emma.
For that half of the audience who don’t already know the story, Jane Eyre is Charlotte Bronte’s ‘autobiographical’ account of a young orphan who is packed off to a stark boarding school at an early age by her self-centred aunt. There Jane is introduced to the worst aspects of Christian Puritanism, in particular the hypocritical Mr Brocklehurst who insists on the most stoic lifestyle for his students, while indulging his family. But Jane struggles through and her faith is defined rather than destroyed by the experience. Providence leads our heroine to Thornfield Manor where she takes up a position as a governess. There she’s offered the sort of happiness she has only dreamt of – if she is prepared to sacrifice her long held notions of right and wrong.
Writer Moira Buffini plays with the timeline of the film to present an imaginative retelling of what is will be a familiar tale for many fans. Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland; The Kids Are Alright) is also an excellent choice for the plain-but-pure Jane doggedly walking her tightrope between Christian pretense and a libertine society. Judi Dench, the quintessential English dame, ably supports her as Thornfield’s warm housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax. And Michael Fassbender gives his acting career a much-needed boost from Inglorious Basterds and 300 as Jane’s tortured, Byronic love-interest Edward Rochester. The result is a gorgeous period drama worthy of the book that has delighted female readers in particular for over 160 years.
But Jane Eyre is no ‘Mills & Boone’ romance. Like the book, the film resists the modern tendency towards situational ethics and argues for a faith that is prepared to politely defy society. In the preface to her book Charlotte Bronte wrote that,
“Conventionality is not morality … narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ.”
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Even love is not allowed to take the place of the heroine’s “… impassioned self-respect and moral conviction.” Jane Eyre is the sort of gift I would give to a daughter if I had one. It’s a welcome reminder that Christianity is not a point of view but something that embraces our whole person. The beauty it conveys is a product of its consistency. It can’t be selectively put on and off because a conscience silenced is a conscience killed.