Magazine article The Spectator

Fatal Flaw

Magazine article The Spectator

Fatal Flaw

Article excerpt

Jane Eyre

PG, Nationwide

I love the story of Jane Eyre more than life itself, which has never been much cop but, infuriatingly, I could not love this adaptation.

I say 'infuriating' because what it does right it does very right. It is stunningly mounted, for example, with ferocious landscapes and howling winds and the sort of storms that split skies open. But what it does wrong is fatal, and the error is this: it just isn't passionate or sexy enough. It is Jane Eyre with all the awful weather but minus the throb of erotic impulse.

Jane and Rochester's first kiss must, surely, be the most longed-for kiss in all of English literature - at last, a forbidden love expressed! - but when it happens here I did not feel a thing.

I checked and double-checked but no, nothing.

They might have been two strangers necking in a doorway. (Get a room! ) I am still trying to figure out why and hope you will bear with me, even though it so rarely pays off.

Directed by Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre), with a bravely austere script by Moira Buffini, this begins not at the beginning but, quite cleverly, as Jane (Mia Wasikowska) is desperately fleeing Rochester (Michael Fassbender) and Thornfield across the rain drenched moors, pursued by voices, to be eventually rescued by the Rivers family.

How she reached this point is then told in flashback: flashbacks to her miserable childhood with that cruel aunt (Sally Hawkins), her years at that beastly Lowood School, and the death of her first and only friend, Helen, which is always a bummer, no matter how you brace yourself for it. I did feel this, actually, so it's not as if I was having an entirely non-feeling kind of day.

Jane is 19, alone, and looking for somewhere to belong when she arrives at Thornfield to take up her position as governess to Rochester's ward Adele. Thornfield is a happy place, full of light and laughter, or would be if only it weren't so dark and gloomy and sombre and isolated, with gothic menace lurking in every creak, shadow and flicker of candlelight. I wouldn't book it for a mini-break, if I were you. (Even your average Travelodge is more cheerful. ) Mrs Fairfax is the housekeeper, as played by Judi Dench, the miraculous Judi Dench, who can somehow say all we need to know about her master's long absences just by folding linen.

(How does she do that? - how? ) Wasikowska, the Australian actress who, as Alice, was quite the best thing in Tim Burton's pointless Alice in Wonderland, is no 'plain Jane' but she is pale and severe, and has the right ethereality. …

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