JE11 stars Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Rochester.  It also features Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax, Sally Hawkins as Aunt Reed, Tamzin Merchant as Mary Rivers, Imogen Poots as Blanche Ingram and Simon McBurney as Mr. Brocklehurst.  Haddon Hall once again plays Thornfield, and it’s gotten to the point that I don’t know if I can imagine any other house as Thornfield.  This is, of course, the adaptation that inspired the Jane Eyre-athon project and, even though I still don’t love it, I am very grateful to it.

I don’t want to repeat what I said back in April, but it all still holds true.  I’m still not fond of the idea that most of the movie is a flashback. The last half hour was still terribly rushed. I still think it’s silly that Jane is an heiress but the Riverses aren’t her cousins.

I did listen to the commentary by Cary Fukunaga, and am very glad I did.  There were some interesting little tidbits, such as the fact that they filmed the entire movie in a 2+ month period (March — May) and had to add leaves to the trees digitally during scenes that were supposed to take place during the summer.  He said he really wanted to be faithful to the book and talked about scenes from the book that were either changed or omitted from the movie, and tells us why.  But he never mentioned that the Riverses are Jane’s cousins.  I really wanted to hear his reasons for omitting that information.

Given the fact that the movie is only 2 hours long, they spend a lot more time (on a relative basis) on Jane’s childhood than some other adaptations have.  Of course, Helen is not quite as devout as she should be, but I really did like the Lowood scenes (as an aside, we see a lot of Helen as a ghost in the deleted scenes). Gateshead was fleshed out more than it was in both JE96 and JE97, which I appreciated because what Jane goes through in her childhood is important to the rest of the story.  Unfortunately, there is no gypsy scene, and one speech that was otherwise taken directly from the book has been edited so that the grammar is incorrect.  Just before Edward proposes, and Jane still thinks he’s going to marry Blanche, Jane says:

I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.

Unfortunately, hypercorrectness has set in, and in this film, Jane says “…as it is now for I to leave you.”


Dear Moira Buffini,

Here is today’s Grammar 101 lesson: “I” is a subject pronoun.  “Me” is an object pronoun.  The twain  never meet.  Subject pronouns are never part of a prepositional phrase; only object pronouns are.  The word “for” introduces the prepositional phrase and therefore must take “me” rather than “I.”

So, the next time you think about changing a sentence written by someone who writes better than you do, think again.  Either that, or buy a grammar book and learn what the parts of speech are.


I honestly don’t think I’m being nitpicky.  After all, it seemed that Buffini’s intent was to lift the entire speech from the book, so why did she make that one change?  Did she think that Charlotte got it wrong? If so, I am not only not amused, I am also not impressed.

In the final analysis, I liked the film somewhat less this time than I did back in April.  After spending so many months with the likes of Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke, Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens, etc. I was forced to rethink my earlier impressions of the chemistry between the two leads.  This time, I really didn’t see much.  Mia’s Jane is sometimes too repressed.  Fassbender’s Edward rarely shows me that he’s tortured.  It still gets a “meh” from me.  It is beautiful to look at, but we know that beauty is often skin deep. There is just not enough substance in this film for my taste.  I know it can be done — JE70 (which is 20 minutes shorter and had a tiny budget) managed to do that without all the resources Fukunaga et al. had at their disposal.  It’s a shame, too; I had been looking forward to this version and thought it had great potential.

This is the end of the great Jane Eyre-athon.  I need to finish a bunch of library books, as well as some books I already own, and I need some downtime to figure out what my next “project” is going to be.  I’m leaning towards Wuthering Heights because, in large part, there are so many adaptations out there, and also because I’ve never read it.  I started it not too long after I’d read Jane Eyre, but I only read a couple of chapters before putting it down with no regrets. But that was almost 40 years ago, and I hope I can do better this time.  I also hope to include Sparkhouse as one of the adaptations, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.


I’m taking a break for a bit, but will be back with more blatherings in a week or so.  Ta!


JE06 stars Ruth Wilson as Jane and Toby Stephens as Edward.  Also featured are Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs. Reed, Christina Cole as Blanche, Francesa Annis as Lady Ingram, Andrew Buchan as St. John and Georgie Henley as Young Jane.

It’s only about 4 hours long, meaning it is considerably shorter than both JE73 and JE83, the only other BBC adaptations that are available for home viewing. There are commentaries for hours 1 and 4, but I did not listen to them because, for some bizarre reason, there were no subtitles. My own copy is the Region 2 version but that’s in storage, so I took out a Region 1 copy from the library. Unfortunately, it was not a very good copy – lots of skipping and stuttering. I do not know if any scenes were cut, since I only saw this version once, and that was when it first aired back in 2006. I did watch some of the cast/crew interviews and was not amused that the casting director said she wanted Toby Stephens in the role because he’s so good-looking. One is left wondering if she’s actually read the book. Haddon Hall plays Thornfield once again, but we see it from different angles than we did in JE96. I don’t remember who said this in the interviews, but one woman involved in the project said she wanted to establish from the outset that Thornfield “is a place of terror.” Once again, I am left wondering how well this person knows the story. Jane does not arrive at Thornfield thinking of it as a “place of terror.”

Jane’s childhood is only given 15 minutes or so. This includes both the Gateshead and Lowood years. Miss Temple and Miss Scatchered are nowhere to be seen. I thought maybe I’d missed them, but they’re not even in the credits. Richard McCabe (Captain Benwick from P95) plays Mr. Brocklehurst. He’s scary, but not the best I’ve seen in the role. The scene where Helen’s hair gets cut was deleted (it’s in the deleted scenes), and most positive references to religion are also gone.  No surprise.

There is some dialogue from the book, but not a lot. But, oddly enough, there are some passages that I don’t remember from the book at all, but they are there, in the script. So it kept me hopping between taking notes and searching my Kindle.

For some reason, there is a red scarf hanging outside the window on the 3rd floor at Thornfield – the part of the house that is supposedly uninhabited. And Jane wears a tiny red scarf at certain points in the story – the day after the fire in Edward’s room, for example. If I’d had a chance to listen to the commentary, I’m sure I’d learn why, but the movie has to be back at the library. So maybe another time.

The gypsy scene is included, but in this version, Edward hires a woman to tell fortunes while he’s hidden away, listening to everything. It’s an interesting way of handling a very difficult scene to pull off.

Since there are no voiceovers in this version, it’s not as jarring to see scenes without Jane, and this version has a scene with Blanche and Edward where we see just how hard Blanche is working to catch him. At the house party, Mr. Eshton talks a lot about twins and the spiritual connection between them. I think they’re trying too hard to be prophetic.

Unfortunately, the “piece of string” speech is butchered. As I’ve said before, I love that speech, and was disappointed that Welch decided to change it.

After the aborted wedding, when Jane is at the Rivers’ house, we see flashbacks to what happened before she runs away. Edward has Jane pinned to the bed, and he tries to seduce her into staying with him. Yes, the scene is incredibly sexy, but it’s also very wrong. In the book, Jane won’t let him touch her because, as I have always thought, she knows she’d find it hard to leave:

“Now he made an effort to rest his head on my shoulder, but I would not permit it. Then he would draw me to him: no.

… Now that you think me disqualified to become your husband, you recoil from my touch as if I were some toad or ape.”

… “Jane!” recommenced he, with a gentleness that broke me down with grief, and turned me stone-cold with ominous terror — for this still voice was the pant of a lion rising — “Jane, do you mean to go one way in the world, and to let me go another?”

“I do.”

…”Jane” (bending towards and embracing me), “do you mean it now?”

“I do.”

“And now?” softly kissing my forehead and cheek.

“I do,” extricating myself from restraint rapidly and completely.

What the bed scene in the adaptation does, however, is to emphasize just how much chemistry Wilson and Stephens have. I really understand what this Jane and this Edward see in each other. It’s so obvious that they are each other’s soul mate and that they burn for each other with a passion that’s real and meaningful. This has not always been the case in adaptations of Jane Eyre. I just wish they could have done it more subtly, as Brontë does in the book. We’re pretty smart; we don’t need to be beaten over the head with their sexual attraction.

I really liked Andrew Buchan as St. John. I think he’s extremely good-looking, and also I thought he showed us how cold and repressed the character is. He tells Jane that he trembles when Rosamund is near, but he also says he fights the temptation because she won’t be a good missionary’s wife and he won’t give up his ambitions for her. We do learn that St John and his sisters are Jane’s cousins, and we do learn that she is an heiress but, as we have seen so many times, this portion of the film is quite rushed, as if the filmmakers are just itching to get Jane and Edward back together as quickly as possible.

The ending is sweet (except for the fact that Jane walks to Ferndean?!) if a little corny. And it all wraps up with Jane and Edward having a portrait painted of them and their extended family. Jane looks quite pretty with her hair in a less prim-and-proper style. The Rivers girls are married, and servants (yes, even Grace Poole) are included.

So, all in all, even though I know I shouldn’t like this version very much because of all the liberties it takes, I do. I really enjoyed it. Parts of it brought me to tears, and I turned off the DVD player with a smile on my face.  As I said, I own it and I can definitely see myself popping it into the player when I feel like being swept away in this wonderful story.

JE97 stars Ciarán Hinds as Rochester and Samantha Morton as Jane. It also features Gemma Jones as Mrs. Fairfax, Rupert Penry-Jones as St John Rivers and Elizabeth Garvie as Diana Rivers. It is a made-for-TV movie that is only 108 minutes long, meaning it is shorter than JE96 (112 minutes) which was a feature film. I saw it when it first aired on US television, and rather liked it, but couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling that something was missing. So I re-read the book for the first time in ages, and realized just how much of the original story was indeed missing.

This adaptation has the unique distinction of starring one of my favorite actors and one of my least favorite actors. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Ciarán Hinds and his work. On the other hand, however, I am absolutely not a fan of Samantha Morton. I disliked her as Sophie Western in Tom Jones and I disliked her as Harriet Smith in the Beckinsale Emma. I’ve also seen her in a couple of smaller roles, and I wasn’t impressed with her in those, either. This was the first time I’d seen the movie in more than 10 years, so I could definitely go into this with an open mind.

The film opens pretty much the same way that JE96 did, with Jane being thrown into the Red Room. Her visit lasts a little bit longer in this adaptation, but not much, because we meet Mr. Brocklehurst almost immediately afterwards. He is very, very loud. There is a lot of voice over in this version, but I can’t find much of it in the book which, to me at least, sort of defeats the purpose.

Lowood is appropriately bad, and they spend more time on the deaths from typhus than we have seen in the past. Helen does not have consumption in this version; she, too, dies of typhus. And, once again, her strong Christian faith has been watered down considerably.

Shortly afterwards, we see Jane preparing to leave Lowood and go to Thornfield. I like Gemma Jones in pretty much everything, and she’s quite good here as Mrs. Fairfax. Jane and Edward meet on a misty pathway — which is how I’ve always pictured their meeting but have very rarely seen it in the adaptations. Ciarán Hinds is not a conventionally handsome man to begin with, but I have to say that he actually looks better as Edward than he has in some of his other roles. Unfortunately, however, he yells.  A lot.

Samantha Morton’s Jane is sufficiently plain, but she just isn’t Jane-like to me. She fluctuates between being too feisty and not feisty enough. When Edward tells her he’s going to marry Blanche, Jane tells him “I think you will be very happy.” I’ve scoured the book, and that line is simply not there.

To be honest, I never really see any chemistry between Edward and Jane. When the two of them are together, she hardly seems to look at him, and the kisses they share are very unappealing (not quite as guppy-like as we saw in P07, but still really ugly). Hinds’ Edward does have more charm and wit and charisma than other Edwards we’ve seen, but Morton’s Jane is essentially humorless (except for the made-up scene where Edward teases Jane about writing to Pilot). The writer butchered the “piece of string” speech to the point where it is no longer deeply moving. This is the only adaptation where Edward takes Jane shopping after their engagement, but for some reason they run into Blanche, who is just nasty to Jane.

The treatment of Bertha is far more sympathetic than we’ve seen in other adaptations.  Edward holds her and kisses the top of her head in the scene where he’s brought Jane et al. to see her.  Yes, I know that we treat the mentally ill with more compassion than we did back then, but this film takes place in the early 19th century, not in the late 20th.

As is the case in all of the shorter versions of the story, the ending is very, very rushed.  The film is at least 90 minutes old before Jane leaves Thornfield. Rupert Penry-Jones is far and away the best-looking St John we’ve seen, and he’s actually age-appropriate, but he’s simply not cold enough. I don’t know if that’s the way the part was written, or how the director wanted him to play the part, or whatever, but he’s actually very sweet and very thoughtful. But Brontë’s St John is really not either. Elizabeth Garvie is a somewhat older than I’d always pictured Diana, but her role is even tinier than St John’s so I guess it doesn’t really matter.  No, the Rivers siblings are not related to Jane, and there is no inheritance.  Nor do we get to meet Rosamund.

The ending is abrupt.  We see the Rochester family a few years later, complete with young children, and poof! it’s over.

All in all, I didn’t hate it.  It’s better than JE96, but it’s still not as good as the other made-for-TV versions, including JE70, which is a very good example of doing more with less.

JE96 is a feature film directed by Franco Zeffirelli that stars William Hurt as Rochester and Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane.  It also features Amanda Root as Miss Temple, Fiona Shaw as Aunt Reed, Joan Plowright as Mrs. Fairfax, Anna Paquin as “Young Jane,” Elle Macpherson as Blanche Ingram, Samuel West as St. John Rivers, Maria Schneider as Bertha, and the man responsible for Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes, as Colonel Dent.

For the most part, this cast is impressive. I said “for the most part” because a major reason I have never been able to bring myself to watch this movie is the fact that it stars William Hurt as Rochester.  Hurt was fine in The Big Chill, Broadcast NewsThe Accidental Tourist and Body Heat, but Jane Eyre? What drugs was Zeffirelli on when he came up with that one?  I am going into this afraid it will turn out to be another MP99 and I’ll end this post by saying “I watched it so you don’t have to.”  Let’s see what happens.

Fiona Shaw’s Mrs. Reed is probably what the makers of Harry Potter saw when they were looking to cast Petunia Dursley.  She’s a very good Mrs. Reed. But the Gateshead years are given short shrift here — Jane is tossed into the Red Room for a nanosecond, followed by the opening credits, followed by Mr. Brocklehurst’s visit to the house, followed by Jane and Mr. Brocklehurst leaving for Lowood. The whole thing takes maybe 5 minutes. Aunt Reed even knows about the uncle in Madeira at the beginning of the film.  If I hadn’t known the story already, I might have found myself wondering why she didn’t contact him to take Jane off her hands from the instant her husband died.

Helen is very sweet and very good, but her deep, sincere religious faith is missing.  For the most part, the only overt religion we see in this film is the rigid, uncompromising cruelty of Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss Scatcherd.  But, in the book, Helen, Jane and Miss Temple show us the other side of faith — the kind, compassionate, giving kind of faith.  Miss Scatchered acts as if she is the headmistress here, not Miss Temple.  And, speaking of Miss Temple, Amanda Root is her usual stellar self in the role.  Unfortunately, we do not get to see just how much of an influence Miss Temple is on Jane.  Jane is far more outspoken as a child than she is in the book.  When Brocklehurst demands that Helen’s curly red hair be cut off, Jane stands up to him and demands that her hair be cut off also.  This is out of left field.

Jane’s transition from childhood to adulthood is as abrupt as it is in JE70 — we see Helen’s tombstone and then all of a sudden we see Charlotte Gainsbourg (who is not as pretty as other women who have played Jane — this is a good thing).  Miss Temple is still at the school and, in fact, she tells Jane that it is “God’s will” for her to stay at the school and that she “cannot leave.” Poor thing.

Next thing we see, Jane is arriving at Thornfield, which is played by Haddon Hall in Bakewell, Derbyshire. Haddon Hall also appeared in The Princess Bride (Prince Humperdinck’s castle), JE11 (Thornfield), P&P05 (interiors used for the Inn at Lambton), Elizabeth, JE06 (Thornfield) and Lady Jane, among others.  I can see why — it’s very impressive and very imposing.

Joan Plowright’s Mrs. Fairfax is fine.  She’s somewhat flighty, not related to Edward through his mother’s family, and she speaks some French, but she’s fine.  Elle Macpherson is an odd choice for Blanche.

What works in the film?  Not much.  The music is gorgeous.  The sets are beautiful.  The costumes are beautiful.  But the goodness ends there.

There is so much wrong with this film that it’s hard to know where to begin.  But I’ll start with William Hurt as Edward Rochester.  Hurt’s English accent comes and goes.  He never seems tortured enough, nor does he seem passionate enough.  At one point, he says “I am hard and tough as an India rubber ball,” but he never makes me believe that he is.  I honestly don’t understand what Jane sees in him; he has none of Rochester’s wit or charisma, and they spend so little time together in this movie that having them fall in love comes out of nowhere (despite the fact that Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane that she’d noticed his “growing fondness for you”).  I had wondered how Hurt would tackle the gypsy scene, but that was omitted, so I’ll never know.

Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Jane is better than Hurt’s Rochester, but I don’t see much passion in her either.  Jane is somewhat restrained, but Gainsbourg is too restrained.  At 5′ 8″, she’s far too tall to be Jane, so it’s probably a good thing that we don’t hear Edward constantly refer to her as a fairy or an elf or a sprite because that would just not be believable.

As for the film itself, it was OK until the last half hour or so.  At that point, it bordered on being an unrecognizable mess.  To backtrack a little bit, when Jane goes back to Gateshead to see her dying aunt, we learn that St John Rivers is the Rector of the Gateshead parish and that his sister Mary lives with him (as an aside, Samuel West is a fine actor, and I think he’s a little better as St John than he was as William Elliot, but he’s still no Greek god).  After Jane returns to Thornfield, Edward asks her to marry him and all of a sudden it’s her wedding day (we never see Bertha tear the veil). When the wedding is aborted, we finally meet Bertha. Edward never tries to convince Jane to run off to Europe with him, and she leaves after telling him she loves him. Just as the carriage is out of sight (it is literally that fast), Edward is called back because Bertha has set fire to the house (we see her do it while Edward is chasing after Jane in the coach). She kills Grace Poole, she kills herself, and then Edward falls into the fire.

Next thing we see, Jane is in the carriage telling us she’s going to Gateshead to visit St John and Mary. I’m really not sure where this came from, except for the fact that she tells us that they were kind to her. Personally, I think it’s rather presumptuous and very un-Jane-like to do that, but what do I know? Anyway, this trip apparently takes several days, and she winds up in bed for a month. There’s no begging, no rainstorm, etc.  Just exhaustion after being in the carriage. Once she’s up and about, St John tells her about her inheritance, and she offers some of it to the girls at Lowood (she also goes to Lowood and visits Helen’s grave), and to St John himself for his missionary work. She hears Edward calling her while she’s at Lowood, but she does nothing about it. St John asks her to marry him and she says she’ll think about it, but then all of a sudden she’s back in the carriage, headed for Thornfield.

Edward and Mrs. Fairfax are actually living in a part of Thornfield that sort of survived the fire. Jane tells Edward she’s there, they embrace, he gets his eyesight back and Adèle comes home from school to complete their little family. The End. See?  Both unrecognizable and a mess.

So, while it wasn’t spectacularly bad in the MP99 mold, it was still worse than mediocre. JE34 and JE49 were unintentionally funny enough to make me forgive some their badness, but this one was not funny at all and it was not even entertaining. This was, in fact, rather dull. They took a story brimming with passion and turned it into a snooze-fest.  I can safely say that I will never watch it again.

JE70 stars George C. Scott as Rochester and Susannah York as Jane; it also features Jean Marsh as Bertha and Angharad Rees as someone named Louise.  In addition, Sophie is played by Anna Korwin, who also played her in JE73.

St. John Rivers was played by a man named Ian Bannen.  I’d never heard of him so I looked him up. He was born in 1928, meaning that he was in his early 40s when this movie was made.  George C. Scott was born in 1927, meaning he was only a year or so older than the man playing St. John.   Susannah York was born in 1939, making her 30+ as Jane.  Interesting tidbit – the music was written by John Williams.  Yes, “THE” John Williams.  So it’s a given that the music is wonderful. It’s a shame that the print isn’t very good because the music sounds a bit tinny.  But then, this is a 40+ year-old production, so I don’t have high hopes for any of the sights or sounds being very good.

The film is only 100 or so minutes long, and the opening credits take up almost 3 minutes. I’m not sure why they thought this was a good idea.

Jane is never at Gateshead.  We first see her in a carriage heading towards Lowood, which is suitably gruesome.  We see a girl chopping up the ice in the pitcher that is used for washing up.  Mr. Brocklehurst brings up Mrs. Reed, but we never meet her or any of the Reed children.  We know immediately which girl is Helen, because she coughs almost constantly.

We’ve seen Mr. Brocklehurst complain about the girl with wavy hair, but in this version it’s Jane he’s complaining about.  That really doesn’t make much sense to me.  Brocklehurst says his lines in a very weird way.  I almost think the actor is drunk.

Miss Scatcherd is truly evil – possibly the most evil Miss Scatcherd yet.  She makes Jane stand on a stool for the crime of having wavy hair, and makes Helen stand on a stool outside for not obeying her.  Of course, given how much Helen coughs, it’s pretty obvious something bad is going to happen to her.  Helen isn’t as religious as she ought to be, but they do include the fact that Helen dies in Jane’s arms.

Approximately 15 minutes has been spent on Jane’s childhood which, given that the movie is only 100 or so minutes long, is pretty good.  We know that Jane’s childhood is over because, all of a sudden, we see Susannah York laying flowers on a grave, Mr. Brocklehurst is calling out “Jane,” and Susannah York responds to him.  There is no way in the world that Susannah York could ever be called “plain.”  Even in simple clothes and a not-very-flattering hairdo she’s beautiful.  She’s also much taller than Jane should be.  Brocklehurst is actually not unpleasant now.  But he still sounds drunk and Jane tells him off.

Next thing we know, Jane is at Thornfield.  One day, she’s out walking and admiring the view and the music sounds like a heartbeat.  All of a sudden, the heartbeat changes to horses’ hooves and we see George C. Scott get thrown by his horse.  Finally, a Rochester who is not good-looking.  I am actually quite pleased with this.  But, oddly enough, we never get the scene where he asks Jane if she thinks he’s handsome.

Unfortunately, this copy must have been taken directly from US television, because it’s pretty obvious where the commercial breaks are.  In fact, at the 30:20 mark, it’s very noticeable that something is missing.

Scott is very brusque and downright rude at times.  More so than in the book, I think.  Or maybe I’m still affected by the charms of the various Rochesters I’ve seen during this project.

We don’t get to hear about Bertha until Edward has been home for a bit.  After putting out the fire, Jane asks Edward if the laughter came from Grace Poole, and Edward says yes.  This is interesting, because I don’t remember hearing/seeing anything about Grace Poole before this.  Perhaps that’s what is in the missing clip.  I’ll have to wait until I can rescue my own copy of the DVD from storage.  But who knows when that will be.

Blanche is attractive, although a bit long in the tooth. If IMDb is correct, she was born in 1936, making her 34 years old in 1970.  Blanche tells Edward that the governess is plain, and I just had to laugh. As I said earlier, I don’t think it’s possible for Susannah York to ever be anything but lovely.  As a result, Jane’s speech later on about being plain is unintentionally funny.  She does dress better after they get engaged, and she’s never anything resembling plain.  I know it sounds as if I’m harping on this, but at least in the 1973 and 1983 versions, they tried to make Jane look as plain as possible.  They don’t seem to have tried here.

We do not get the gypsy scene in this version, which does not surprise me at all.  1973 is the first version that has it, and it’s plain that this is a difficult scene to pull off well. Jane never goes back to Gateshead, so we never learn about the rich uncle in Madeira.   It is quite rushed – the scene with Bertha and Jane’s veil takes place after about 64 minutes. Bertha doesn’t tear the veil – she just lets it fall onto the floor, but nobody says anything about it.  Why bother keeping the scene?  The wedding is at 65 minutes, leaving us 35 minutes to meet Bertha, meet the Riverses, find out that Bertha burned down the house, etc.  When Jane does meet the Riverses, she tells them her real name, and they are not her cousins, nor does she turn out to be an heiress.  Edward goes blind from the fire, but he does get to keep both his hands. Instead of not blinking, George C. Scott just keeps his eyes closed.  He doesn’t look injured at all; he just looks as if he’s sleeping.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this was the first JE adaptation I ever saw (if it’s not, then JE43 was, and I didn’t retain much). This was made a year earlier than P71, yet the costumes are so much nicer.  There are no icky green plaid dresses or beehive hairdos to be found.  The sets are suitably dark and gothic.  Except for the fact that St John seems to be more empathetic than he should be (his proposal to Jane is way too passionate), the characters do resemble those in the book.

To be honest, while I went into this willing to be snarky about this film, I found that there was really no need to be.  It’s actually quite decent, given the circumstances.  There’s obviously a reason I remembered it, even after all these years. Whenever I can get my DVD out of storage, I plan to watch it again.

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.

I’ve just finished watching JE73, which stars Sorcha Cusack as Jane,  Michael Jayston as Rochester and Sable Colby, er, Stephanie Beacham as Blanche Ingram.  It’s only been available on DVD for a few years, and I’d only seen it once before this viewing.  I watched it with a couple of friends, so it’s a given that I didn’t pay as much attention as I could have.  Before its release on DVD, I’d heard from several people on both sides of the Atlantic about how this was the “Holy Grail” of JE adaptations, so I was very excited to see it when it finally came out.

It’s a given that the production values are bad, but as we know, I am generally capable of taking those in stride.  So here we  have rooms that are lit too well, hair that doesn’t move and sets that are cheesy.  As long as the script and the acting are good, I’m fine. One thing I did notice, however, is that Thornfield looked very familiar.  I couldn’t stop thinking that it looked like Pemberley from P&P80.  So I visited IMDb and proved myself right — the exterior of Thornfield was played by Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire, and is indeed the same house that was used as Pemberley in P&P80.

The series has 5 episodes of approximately 50 minutes each.  The first episode is almost exclusively devoted to Jane’s childhood, meaning that this is the first adaptation so far that actually gives us a good look at Jane’s childhood.  We see the girls shivering in the cold and dying from typhus.  The board sees how awful the conditions are and they tell Brockelhurst that his services are no longer needed as superintendent, or whatever position he held that put him in charge.  We also see how pious Helen is and how she almost scolds Jane for not putting enough faith in God.  All in all, it’s very well done, and I’m glad that, after 3 adaptations, we get to see it.

In episode 2, we get to meet Mrs. Fairfax, Adèle (whose French accent is good; going by her name – Isabelle Rosin — she may even be French), Sophie (this is a first!), Grace Poole and, of course, Mr. Rochester.  Mrs. Fairfax is appropriately ditzy, Adèle isn’t too annoying and Grace Poole is enigmatic (in the previous adaptations, we barely saw her, so it could be argued that Jane’s idea that Grace is the one laughing and setting fires has some merit).  Mr. Rochester, however, is a very handsome man.  He’s been handsome in every adaptation I’ve seen so far. If you’d never read the book, it would be hard to understand why, in every adaptation, the line where he asks Jane if she thinks him handsome has some of us giggling.

Stephanie Beacham is a very good Blanche Ingram.  She is appropriately “superior” to Jane, and I liked watching her suck up to Edward (as an aside, one thing I learned here is that she was considerably younger as Sable Colby than I always thought she was).  She’s not classically beautiful, but I do think she was a good Blanche.

When I first saw it, with a group of friends, we spent a lot of time making fun of Sorcha Cusack’s eyebrows.  No matter what Ms. Cusack is saying or doing, her eyebrows seem to have a life of their own.  They are perpetually in a state of surprise, and that’s a bit disconcerting. Other than that, there is a lot to like about this adaptation.  The characters are true to the book, the story is very close to the original.  This is the first adaptation that gives us the gypsy scene, which is good, and we also get to meet St. John, Diana and Mary Rivers and we learn that Jane is an heiress and the Rivers siblings are her cousins.

One rather (in my opinion) glaring omission is that we never meet or hear anything about Rosamund Oliver.  She simply does not exist in this story.  In the book, the existence of Rosamund shows us just how deeply St John is capable of loving, and it also shows us just how cold he can be by rejecting her love.  To ignore Rosamund in an adaptation that is otherwise so faithful to the book just makes me scratch my head in confusion.  I cannot figure out why they thought cutting her out was a good idea. Geoffrey Whitehead’s St John was 33 or 34 in when this was aired in 1973, but he looks even older than that (St John – in the book and in this script – is supposed to be 29) and he is not nearly as good-looking as the character is supposed to be.  The script has Jane tell Edward how good-looking St John is, and I confess to having snickered at that line.

This is the first adaptation where Edward loses his hand in the fire, but one thing hasn’t changed: the blind Edward doesn’t blink.  Is it because, when a sighted person blinks, their eyes automatically refocus and blind people’s eyes obviously can’t focus?  I’m stumped.  We also never hear Jane tell us that Edward was able to see his first-born. I miss that part and am not sure why they felt compelled to cut it out. There is a lot of voice-over in this production (which usually annoys me), but it does work here; I think it’s because the book is written in the first person and, with the voice-over, this emphasized (to me, at least) the autobiographical nature of the story.

I really liked this adaptation.  It’s far and away the closest to the book of the 4 adaptations I’ve seen so far (I couldn’t watch 1970 because Netflix doesn’t have it and my copy is in storage — maybe someday I’ll get to see it again) and, once one overlooks the laughable production values (Jane’s costumes are particularly hilarious — especially towards the end, once she has money), one can see just how much substance there is.  The performances are good, the script is good and it is an excellent re-telling of a beloved story.  I highly recommend it.