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