Starring Mia Wasikowska (“The Kids Are All Right”) as Jane, and Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds”) as Rochester, this new version emphasizes the novel’s Gothic elements: gloom, melancholy, suspicion and someone creeping through the halls of Thornfield Manor after dark. Director Cary Fukunaga (“Sin Nombre”) and screenwriter Moira Buffini (“Tamara Drewe”) provide an intensity of emotion and fear that is palpable.
Jane is a young woman who becomes the governess in the home of Edward Rochester, a brooding, cynical man saddened by something mysterious in his past. He tells Jane, his intellectual equal, that he was not always as she sees him now, and Fassbinder does a fine job of playing the formerly happy man buried under years of disappointment and coldness. The two of them fall in love, but his past keeps them from marrying.
Excellent in support are Judi Dench (“Nine”) as the housekeeper; Jamie Bell (“Jumper”) as St. John Rivers, the India-bound missionary in love with Jane; and newcomer Amelia Clarkson as a young Jane.
This is a good adaptation of one of world literature’s essential novels, made even better by its re-creation of the Gothic atmosphere that has been thrilling readers for 164 years. Then, for an entertaining triple feature, go home and watch “Rebecca” and “I Walked with a Zombie,” two clever variations on a theme.