Anyone who is a “true” costume drama fanatic will have by now, read the titular novel on which this is based, seen an adaptation or been introduced into Charlotte Bronte’s works through a modern interpretation where Jane is some sort of vampire-slayer or something of that nature (whatever). I, myself do not count this story among my very favorites, but I do love the story because unlike other Bronte works, it does retain a happy, if not completely conclusive ending. Most reviewers in the blog scene (and I realize that I am probably the only person who hasn’t seen this but, still, I thought I’d share my thoughts) who I follow adored this adaptation, but for me – in the beginning, it was just one more version of a story that did not need to be re-made (anyone else want to see Martin Chuzzlewit or Middlemarch revised?). My thoughts wound up being somewhat split, but nevertheless, here they are.
Since most of us know how the now iconic Bronte story plays out I won’t bore you with a synopsis. I think everyone is well acquainted with the plain, orphaned Jane and the brooding Mr. Rochester, their meeting and eventual relationship. Writers and the director actually did a beautiful job with this feature film - one thing being the story somehow seeing "new." For me, this film was a pleasant surprise. I figured I’d “like” it but didn’t plan to count it among one of my favorite adaptations. I have probably seen three versions before this, including A&E’s, Miramax’s feature film and the 1980’s BBC classic. Out of each of those I have always enjoyed Timothy Dalton in the role of Edward Rochester followed by the 1996 film with A&E coming in at a distant third place. Something about Ciaran Hinds portrayal never did enchant me, although I am not overly thrilled with William Hurt in the role either, I liked the movie. Here, the actors play their roles with a lot more conviction than I gave them credit for.
Mia and Michael actually make a decent on-screen couple. I thoroughly enjoyed every one of their scenes together. There isn’t always a lot of expression and emotion funneled into the scenes but most of the time there is an apparent reluctance being Jane’s struggle and Edward’s growing affection towards Jane is likewise easily experienced. Saying that might be something of a contradiction but perhaps it was the performances by the pair of them that most amazed me. Notable co-stars include the always wonderful Judi Dench, Holliday Grainger (The Borgias), Imogen Potts (Miss Austen Regrets) and Tamzin Merchant (The Tudors) along with Jamie Bell whom many might remember as Smike from the Miramax version of Nicholas Nickleby. The film also has some truly beautiful moments and filming. It begins dark and morbid as many prior versions have but as Jane’s circumstances change, as she begins to experience all-consuming love, so does the scenery and sets change. Spring time comes and with it the beauty of nature. There is one particular scene that I loved outdoors in a montage that sees Jane and Edward under the apple blossom tree – so pretty.
I will just admit that I haven’t read the book… but I did not like some of the liberties this one took in comparison to previous adaptations. The fact that Edward is always gruff is fine by me, but I have liked the interaction he had with Adele in other productions. Something about it softened him, here we hear Edward say he “dislikes” children – and right in the presence of the little girl, too! I have to keep reminding myself that when writers limit themselves to a mere two hours, certain things will be shortened or cut altogether whereas a miniseries has a lot more flexibility. Even Jane and Adele aren’t portrayed as being as close as usual. Nevertheless the script holds its own with some unique conversations and others that have been bantered about so much you are now weary of them. The beginning of the movie stutters back-and-forth between Jane’s childhood and her life following Thornfield Hall. Such filming isn’t done in the best interest of the story in my opinion but it only lasts about fifteen minutes whereas we don’t meet Mr. Rochester until a good twenty-some minutes have gone by.
My mom and I sat down to watch this version last Saturday morning and the fact that even she declared it her favorite next to the 80’s miniseries is saying something because she doesn’t much like the story of Jane Eyre, period. Indeed it is a morbid tale (I cannot imagine that any of you have not already seen at least one version, but anyway, in case you haven’t, that might be good to know). Despite petty grievances, I actually wound up finding this version charming. Because of a video store closing, I decided to just buy a copy and am not sorry to have done so. The proposal scene is lovely as are some of the following sequences between Jane and Edward. It might not seem so, but writers pieced together a different take on the classic material to bring to us an interesting love story between an already well-known couple. And the results are impressive.
- Jane Eyre (Ruth's review)
(Jane Eyre is rated PG13 for “thematic elements” - there are some "scary" moments and Jane discovers she was about to marry a man who was not free to do so. Children all ill-treated at a boarding school.)