Muted colours, natural lighting and misty moors fill director Cary Fukunaga's moody Jane Eyre, yet another screen adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's 1847 gothic romance. Complemented by a standout performance from Australian actress Mia Wasikowska and a clever story structure, Fukunaga has created a fresh and satisfying adaptation of the classic tale.
Successfully condensing Bronte's novel into two hours is a difficult task (18 feature film versions have already tried), but screenwriter Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe) does an admirable job of rearranging the narrative to retain all the distinct stages of Jane's story and, more than likely, still keep fans of the novel happy.
Buffini opens the film with Jane (Mia Wasikowska) as an adult when she stumbles upon the Rivers family, who kindly take her in after she flees across the moors. We then flash back to Jane's tragic childhood as an orphan, her time at an austere boarding school and her arrival, aged 18, at Thornfield Hall where she works as a governess for Adele Varens (Romy Settbon Moore), the ward of Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender).
Wasikowska, who registered hardly any surprise at falling through a rabbit hole as Alice in Alice in Wonderland, has found the perfect role for her pale, taut face. She's suitably plain and quietly intense as Jane, a self-respecting young woman determined to both live life to the full and remain resolute in her morals.
She's the perfect opponent for her abrupt, haunted and mysterious master, played with Byronesque vigour by Fassbender. Although the screen doesn't really spark when the two first meet, it's not long before an unorthodox relationship, filled with misunderstandings and hidden secrets, is inflamed.
Fukunaga's adaptation is beautifully crafted. Using only candles, fire and lanterns to light interior scenes, he brings a wonderful sense of authenticity to the 19th century setting. It also goes some way to making the prose sound appropriate rather than old-fashioned.
No doubt die-hard Bronte fans will find issues that niggle but, for most of us, Fukunaga's spooky, moving and brooding adaptation is a reminder of why we enjoyed the book in the first place.
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Running time: 124 mins
Rating: M (Adult themes)
Verdict: A beautifully shot, largely faithful and clever adaptation.