JE83 stars Timothy Dalton as Edward, Zelah Clarke as Jane, Jean Harvey (Mrs. Reed in JE73) as Mrs. Fairfax, Judy Cornwell (Mrs. Musgrove in P95) as Mrs. Reed and Morag Hood (Mary Musgrove in P71) as Mary Rivers. There are 11 episodes of approximately 30 minutes each.
I had only seen this adaptation once, and it was on VHS and it was edited. The DVD version has the missing scenes restored. The Region 1 JE83 DVD is 311 minutes long (Region 2 is 312 minutes). The Region 1 JE73 DVD is only 248 minutes long (Region 2 is 275 minutes long).
The first hour is devoted to Jane’s childhood. The Reeds were unpleasant, but not as awful as they could have been. The Lowood years were much better, in my opinion. Helen was quite good. She was as religious as she should have been, and Mr. Brocklehurst was sufficiently awful. It may be nitpicky, but I was surprised that Helen doesn’t die while sharing a bed with Jane. I’d always liked that in the book; Helen is the first person Jane truly loves, and to have Helen die in Jane’s arms is very powerful. This is the first adaptation I’ve seen where Miss Temple plays an important role in Jane’s life. We even get to see Miss Temple verify Jane’s story, and this is also the first adaptation where Miss Temple leaves the school to get married.
What else do I like? Pretty much everything. The costumes are better than they have been with other adaptations, and Jane’s hair moves – it even comes loose when Edward kisses her. I think the gypsy scene is done better than it was in JE73; Dalton is better at hiding his voice than Jayston was.
All in all, I think that Dalton is more forceful and more vibrant than Jayston. Yes, he’s better-looking than Rochester should be (as have all of the Rochesters we’ve met so far), but he did a wonderful job with the part. He makes Edward simply ooze passion, and we can also see just how tortured he is. As for Zelah Clarke, she is tiny and almost delicate in appearance, but she gives back as good as she gets. She cannot be called plain, but she’s still very “Jane-like” in her performance. I like Clarke better than Sorcha Cusack and her eyebrows. There is such a wonderful chemistry between Dalton and Clarke. It’s almost palpable.
Adèle isn’t annoying, and her accent is good. She doesn’t appear very often, which is fine with me.
I know the story very well, but I don’t know the book as well as I would like. There is a difference. I can quote passages from P&P or Persuasion, but I can’t do that from Jane Eyre. And, because I don’t know the book as well as I know the story, I found myself searching my Kindle from time to time because I couldn’t recall if certain bits of dialogue had been in the book. But this script is amazingly faithful to the book, while not allowing this fidelity to weigh down the production.
However, the fidelity to the story is why I was so surprised (and not in a good way) that this line:
“I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you–especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.
was cut out of this adaptation.
The words that come next:
And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you,–you’d forget me.”
are intact, but the first part is gone. I’ve always loved this speech. I find it to be very sweet and very romantic, and I cannot for the life of me understand why Alexander Baron (who wrote the script) left it out.
And then, for some reason, they added a scene where Rochester tells the attorney who broke up the wedding to find Jane and let him know she’s OK. There have been smaller scenes without Jane, but this is, to me at least, a rather important scene, and I’m very surprised they put it in. I don’t like this scene at all. Jane Eyre is told in the first person. We, the readers, know nothing that Jane doesn’t know, and to put in a scene that tells us something that Jane doesn’t learn about until later was, in my not-so-humble opinion, not the best idea Mr. Baron had.
Andrew Bricknell’s St John is far more handsome than was St John in the 1973 adaptation. He still doesn’t look quite like a Greek god, but he’s not unattractive. He’s very good — he does cold and ambitious very well. This is the first adaptation where we meet Rosamund Oliver. That’s the good news. The bad news is that she isn’t used enough to make us really believe that she and St John are in love.
The blind Edward actually blinks, which may be meaningless to most people, but I’m so nitpicky that I noticed it.
We still get a voice over, but not as much as in JE73. I didn’t mind the voice over in JE73, but there is so much less here that the difference is noticeable. For some reason, I felt more emotionally involved with this adaptation than I have with any of the others, including JE73. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve only seen this production once before (and it was not the “complete” edition). Despite the cuts, I loved it, and thought it was vastly superior to any of the others I’d seen. I wondered if a re-watch hold up to more intense scrutiny. The answer is yes. I still like it better than any of the other adaptations I’ve watched so far. Granted, with the exception of JE73, there isn’t much competition, but I have to say that I prefer it to JE73. These are the first two adaptations I’ve watched for this project that make a concerted effort to tell the whole story, so it’s hard to compare either of them with the earlier versions. I have seen JE70, but I saw it so long ago that I cannot possibly remember how faithful it is; it is next on the list (since Traxy pointed out to me that it’s at the Internet Archive!), and I may end up revising my opinion. And maybe I won’t.