Jane Eyre is a classic piece of literature written in 1847 by Charlotte Bronte. Over the years it has been made into many film adaptions, too many in my opinion. My favourite has to be the 2006 BBC adaptation, even though people feel that the 1983 version starring Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton is closer to the book I find the acting too wooden and feel that the script follows the book over religiously.
In the beginning of the film I feel that Jane’s childhood is slightly rushed although not like the 1996 William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsberg version which in my opinion is awful as an adaption and skims through the story in a ridiculous 1hr40 minutes. I feel that for any version of this novel to stand a chance of being decent it should be around 4 hours long which this series is.
The series was criticised somewhat as it was thought that Toby Stephens was too attractive to play Mr Rochester as in the novel the character is described as ” with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw—yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake. His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy” (chapter 13)… not attractive. However, I think he is a fantastic actor and does have a slightly rugged look unlike Timothy Dalton in the 1983 version who is too clean-cut looking for the role as well as having an unusual accent as he is clearly trying to hide his Welsh accent.
Ruth Wilson stars as the wise heroine Jane Eyre in this version and was 24 years old newly graduated from acting school. I got a bit of a surprise when I first saw her picture as she has unusual features however this doesn’t particularly matter as Jane is not meant to be pretty. Her acting is fantastic and full of emotion. People felt that this 2006 version was the most controversial as there is more of a spark between Ruth Wilson (Jane) and Toby Stephens (Mr Rochester) than in any other film made.
Toby Stephens who plays Mr Rochester is the son of acting legend Dame Maggie Smith and had taken roles previously in many tv series and James Bond film “Die another day” His career began in theatre as he worked for the Royal Shakespeare company making him a thespian actor. There is something very charming about him as an actor making him my favorite ever Rochester.
I find the young Jane slightly annoying as the young Jane, I feel in places she over acts however, she must have done something right as now she is a respectable actress starring in “The Chronicles of Narnia” Other famous faces are amongst the cast including the well-known Pam Ferris (Grace Poole) and Tara Fitzgerald (Mrs Reed)
Christina Cole ( Blanche Ingram) is amazing and does a perfect “ice queen” portrayal of the haughty and spoilt Blanche who only wishes to marry Rochester for his vast riches. She is beautiful yet incredibly selfish and belittles Jane stating in a conversation how awful she thinks governesses are which is meant purposefully for Jane to overhear. I love the scene where Rochester confronts Ingram when she enters his smoking room with the statement “what do you really want Blanche?” which belittles Blanche and puts her in her place.
The Plot…A brief overview
The story begins with Jane as a young orphan approximately age 10. She is orphaned and lives with her Aunt Reed at Gateshead who resents her because when her husband was dying he asked to see Jane rather than his old children on his death-bed. Jane is treated unfairly and isolated from the family abusing her physically and emotionally. Mrs Reed dotes on her spoilt children John, Eliza and Georgiana who have also been turned against Jane and she is treated as an outcast/ servant.
Things worsen and Jane is sent away to boarding school…Mr Brocklehurst’s institution. He has a heart of stone and the girls are treated appallingly, many don’t survive due to the terrible living conditions and spread of disease. Jane is humiliated in front of her class immediately and branded as a liar. One shows her kindness, Helen Burns who becomes a true friend however tragedy strikes soon after.
Jane as a young woman progresses as a teacher continuing to work at Lowood but applies for a governess post at Thornfield Hall in Yorkshire. After being accepted she is assigned to look after Adele the young French ward of the Master of the house Mr Rochester. Adele is fairly spoilt but kind and under Jane’s supervision she flourishes as a student, after a few months Jane feels at home. After a strange beginning between the two characters she finds a friend in Mr Rochester, their relationship blossoms through the odd occurrences at Thornfield Hall , she is later to discover he has a haunting secret which has the potential to ruin both of their futures.
Why watch the 2006 version over the many others?
I adore the natural chemistry between Rochester and Jane which comes over as very natural even though there is a 13 year age gap between the actors. There are some interesting changes which had never been done before in any other version. It shows more detail to Rochester’s past going back in time showing him . I feel the 2006 version is very different to others as it goes more into depth showing “flashbacks” of Rochester as a young man meeting the charming yet cruel mother of his ward Adele, Celine Varens a mistress of his whilst he was in Paris and other previous events in his life.
The scene under the tree where Jane opens her heart and confesses her love for Mr Rochester is breathtaking. The first time I watched it I was nearly moved to tears. The scenery is also lovely filmed in Derbyshire and the Peak District and is complimented by a pretty music score in the background.
I have viewed 3 other versions of Jane Eyre. The 1983 version starring Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton is true to the book but as said before, I dislike the acting style and the cinematography is quite typical of the 1970’s/1980’s…done in a ‘play style’ similar to the popular series Upstairs Downstairs and the ending is very abrupt. The 1996 version starring William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg is in my opinion awful…and as said before far to short in length. I felt that it skimmed through the whole story without any depth or time for relationships to grow between the characters. William Hurt was far too old to play Mr Rochester at the age of 46 when the actors chosen are normally in their mid 30’s. The ending is ridiculous, it seems that Rochester is blind one minute and his sight is returned the next. The acting is poor, I find Charlotte Gainsbourg to be a very weak actress and I didn’t feel that there was any chemistry between her and William Hurt. The 1997 Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds version is quite good although it does miss some important parts out such as when Jane returns to visit her dying Aunt however the ending is beautiful.
I was annoyed to find that there was a 2011 film version to be released this year as my favourite version was only made 5 years ago I think it was far too soon to make another and at only 2 hours and 30 minutes long too short to portray the story and characters properly. It stars Mia Wasikowska who played Alice in Wonderland and Michael Fassbender , receiving very mixed reviews. Due to its originality Jane Eyre 2006 will always be my favourite.