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Words by Mr David Whitehouse
Jane Eyre brims with plentiful foreboding. It's imbued in the moors, and in the fear that our lead's great love will go unrequited. It is a quintessentially British tale then - one of restraint, woe and the fierce energy created when two opposites come together in passion, like tectonic plates before a quake.
Mr Fukunaga directed the new film adaptation, but he doesn't sound like a man who should be at home in Brontë country. He is just 34, has lived in California, New York, France and Japan and is a wunderkind of American cinema. Still, his version suggests not just a kinship with the original tale, but an innate, quickly blossoming mastery of his art. It is a reminder that a great director can deliver a beautiful story from even the most alien of raw materials. A pitch-perfect movie can make you forget this sometimes, but that's how you know it works. Sometimes you must remind yourself that Mr Stanley Kubrick never went into space.
"I came to the story with the '43 version of the film, with Orson Welles in it," explains Mr Fukunaga. "My mum is a big fan of classic, black and white films so I grew up with those films over weekends and weeknights and Jane Eyre was one of my favourite ones. That was how I was introduced to it. It's funny, I didn't realise there were that many adaptations of the book. When I signed on for the job I was like, 'there hasn't been a movie in 70 years! It's about time!'. Then suddenly I found out there were like 20 versions of it."
Mr Fukunaga's Jane Eyre suggests an innate, blossoming mastery of his art. It is a reminder that a great director can deliver a beautiful story from even the most alien of raw materials
The film stars Ms Mia Wasikowska as Jane, whose performance is a whole syllabus in captivation, and a stern but haunted Mr Michael Fassbender as Mr Rochester, with whom she falls in love. It is this intense romance that Mr Fukunaga casts at the film's centre.
"It's a love story. I think that when you are extremely in love with somebody, that gravity is stronger than a black hole. You become like two molecules trying to occupy the same space," he says. It is a hugely different tale of two hearts than that found in his Sundance Film Festival conquering debut Sin Nombre, about the violent struggle of Mexican teenagers trying by any means possible to cross the Mexican border into America. It wasn't a leap in genres to Brontë, more an Evel Knievel-style 16 bus record attempt. "I didn't read much romance at school. Though in fact when I was 15 one of the first scripts I ever wrote was a love triangle romance. It never got made. It was my goal to make it with a bunch of friends and I was going be in it too. I had a video camera and everything, lots of shots planned. It's funny. It was so naive, that story. No one will ever see that."
That Mr Fukunaga is young, handsome and clean-cut as well a successful Hollywood name means his own romantic life has become an area of interest to others, particularly his relationship with actress Ms Michelle Williams, mother to the late Mr Heath Ledger's daughter. But despite the glare he still talks like a film student. It wasn't that long ago that he was studying his craft at NYU. He speaks about film as though he is pulling it apart. This runs from the cast ("Casting is everything. Think of the cast as ultimately the colours that are going to be on a canvas") to the finer details of the film's production, its styling in particular. In everything, you can see his hand.
"I love materials and I love patterns and I love the tactile nature of clothing. Michael O'Connor who is the costume designer on Jane Eyre and I had many conversations about colour and texture and how that would mix with the sets. We spent a long time trying to work out the colour palette for the film. I loved the way the heather looked in the winter. The heather was a weird olive green with a purple hue left over from the flowers in August and the bracken had this sort of metallic orange that I thought would go really well with the browns and blues of the costumes. I spent a long time studying the style, getting it right."
When you are extremely in love with somebody, that gravity is stronger than a black hole. You become like two molecules trying to occupy the same space
After the interview the vast and empty hotel corridor is filled with a haunting piano melody from an unidentified source. An overheard conversation between Mr Fukunaga and an assistant reveals it to be Ms Wasikowska in another room, relaxing. Jane Eyre, alone, making beautiful music in a quiet, enormous hotel.