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Laurie Sparham/Focus Features

Jane Eyre

Movies | Latest adaptation proves that Jane's passion and sense of right can woo another generation

Issue: "Upside down," April 9, 2011

When Jane Eyre's aunt brings in a clergyman to teach Jane the error of her lying ways, he asks how she will avoid a relegation to the pit of fire for her wickedness. With a flicker of rebellion she replies, "I must stay in good health and not die."

Years later, Jane confronts the choice of holding to her own moral convictions or staying with the man she loves. She chooses her convictions, despite all the humiliation and abuse she's suffered, because she believes in her own dignity. She has already learned how to lose the people she loves and how to preserve her dignity inviolate through it all.

Charlotte Bronte's classic novel, Jane Eyre, tells the story of an abused orphan who enters the employ of the moody Mr. Rochester. He wins her heart, asks her to marry him, and only then does Jane discover that he is hiding a secret that may wreck the only happiness she has ever known.

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Instead of relying on shots of candles flickering over the stony face of a creaking house, director Cary Fukunaga downplays the Gothic creepiness and omits one of the book's harrowing scenes, in which a madwoman tears Jane's wedding veil in two. Instead, Fukunaga creates emotional intensity by focusing on Jane-beautifully portrayed by Mia Wasikowska, who has a face that alternately conceals and reveals the passion locked inside a girl who has been cowed into outward propriety.

The gardens of Thornfield Hall are bright and sunny when Jane and Mr. Rochester wander them during their happy engagement. This brightness heightens the contrast later on when Jane has thrown herself, sobbing, onto the black moor.

With excellent supporting performances featuring Judi Dench as the garrulous housekeeper and Michael Fassbender as the "abrupt and changeful" Mr. Rochester, this latest adaptation (rated PG-13 for a nude image and brief violence) proves that Jane's passion and sense of right can woo another generation.


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