You are either a Janeite. Or you are a Charlottan.
The Brontes’ resurgence
“When I need order in my life, I read Jane Austen,” says Alison Owen, an English film producer. “When I’m feeling more emotional, and when I need that passionate punch, I turn to ‘Jane Eyre.’ ”
For two decades, Austen’s Janeites have held the public hostage in an infinite Regency-era loop. Elizabeth Bennet played by Jennifer Ehle, played by Keira Knightley, played by Aishwarya Rai. Elizabeth Bennet fighting zombies. A cultish What Would Jane Do movement emerged, as if Austen were not a favorite author but a chatty oracle.
The Charlottans have waited.
On Friday, the nationwide opening of “Jane Eyre.” It’s the newest remake of the most famous novel to be written by Charlotte Bronte or her two author sisters, Emily and Anne. Owen is the producer; the director is Cary Fukunaga, whose last project was the Mexican gang drama “Sin Nombre.” This new “Eyre” stars Mia Wasikowska, the “Alice” of Tim Burton’s “Wonderland,” as plain governess Jane, and Michael Fassbender — an appropriate blend of sexy, cruel and mangy — as her tormented employer, Mr. Rochester.
In Britain, director Andrea Arnold is finishing up edits for a new version of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” — the first version to cast a black actor in the role of Heathcliff.
In New York, a Bronte fan has launched a one-time magazine called “Eyresses,” dedicated to the painstaking worship of the 400-page novel. It includes a “Jane Eyre Community Cookbook” and an e-mail chain between two dudes who confess that they both secretly love the book.
A Bronte biopic has been in the works for years; the faithful hope it will get off the ground soon.
The faithful are very protective of their source material.
“There is nothing about this movie that is reinventing what the story should have been,” Fukunaga says of his film in a telephone interview. “The book is frightening,” he says, promising that his “Jane” preserves the Gothic elements that have been sacrificed in previous versions. “There are other ‘Jane Eyre’ films out there that are mostly treated as romance films.”
The problem for Brontophiles isn’t that the books haven’t been made into movies. With the exception of Anne’s works (everyone always forgets about Anne), many of them have; “Jane Eyre” had a made-for-TV makeover just five years ago. The problem is that so many of these adaptations have been lacking. Whereas “Pride and Prejudice” will forever be defined by Colin Firth, the cinematic world is still in search of the perfect Bronte adaptation.
“I cannot tell you how many Bronte films I have seen,” says Rebecca Fraser, a Charlotte Bronte biographer. “Orson Welles  was very Byronic, but not so attractive. Timothy Dalton . . . people generally think that Timothy Dalton  did not work.”