Jane Eyre 2011

Jane Eyre 2011This adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre was produced in 2011.  Directed by Cary Fukunaga from a script by Moira Buffini, this is clearly the best of the recent movie versions of the novel.  Ms. Buffini’s script is faithful to the novel, yet innovative in the way it tells the story, bringing a passion lacking in the other attempts.

For a detailed plot synopsis, please see my review of the novel at the link below.

The movie begins between the second and third sections of the book, when Jane  (Mia Wasikowska) runs away from Thornfield Hall and becomes lost on the moors.  This is a dramatic departure from the other adaptations, which tell the story in a straightforward manner.  To bring the single most iconic scene to passionate life at the very beginning is both clever and stirring.  After she is found at the doorstep of St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell), the first two parts of the story are told in flashback as Jane regains herself and settles into life with St. John and his two sisters, Mary and Diana.  The other two adaptations give the final third of the novel short shrift, but this version, by making it the “present day” of the movie, allows us to experience Jane’s new life and the relationship with St. John to the fullest.

The second innovation is that the script makes the deepest cuts in the first section, Jane’s childhood.  There are good and bad repercussions of this, but in this movie they are mostly good.  The abuse within Mrs. Reed’s (Sally Hawkins) household by both her aunt and her cousins is shown much more dramatically.  The child actress playing Jane at ten, Amelia Clarkson, does a terrific job.  The cruelty of the school is brought out more boldly in this version, as we actually see Jane’s friend, Helen Burns (Freya Parks) being caned by the headmistress.  So, even though this section is shorter, it is much more powerful in setting up Jane’s character.

After leaving Lowood as a 17 year old girl, Jane takes her position at Thornfield Hall.  In this version, it seems much older, more rustic and authentic, dark and brooding, becoming more the character that Brontë created in the novel.  The housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench) guides her through narrow hallways, dimly lit by candles.  Her pupil, Adele (Romy Settbon Moore), speaks mostly French and is very charming.  Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender) is offensive, brooding and Gothic.  The entire creation of Thornfield Hall is much spookier than the other versions.  This film also shows the process of Jane and Rochester falling in love, which makes it much more believable.  The script actually brings over some of the dialogue from the book where Jane and Rochester speak during the evening.  The viewer can see Jane challenging him intellectually.

The acting is superb.  Mia Wasikowska gives an extraordinary performance as Jane Eyre, even if she is quite a bit more beautiful than the character in the book.  They try to make her look plain, but Wasikowska’s eyes alone give her away as a beautiful woman.  Likewise, Michael Fassbender is terrific as Rochester, but he’s just a little too handsome.  Nonetheless, these two actors have an extraordinary chemistry that brings a great deal of emotion to the story.  The supporting characters are also very well drawn, again bringing a felicity to the book that is rare in film adaptations.  Jamie Bell is especially good as St. Johns.

Cary Fukunaga’s expert direction brings this wonderful script to life, from creating the rustic Gothic texture of the environment to the beautiful use of light and shadows throughout Thornfield Hall.  The film is full of a kind of shimmering beauty that makes it a wonderful viewing experience.

From almost every point of view, this is a delightful adaptation of a great classic novel.


Jane EyreRead my review of the novel Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte!

This 1847 classic novel both delights and confounds a modern reader.

Told mostly in first person past (with brief lapses into first person present) by the heroine, Jane Eyre, the book was originally subtitled An Autobiography.  It begins with Jane as a young girl of ten years as an orphan living with her Aunt Reed at Gateshead Hall.


Jane Eyre 1996Read my review of the 1996 Franco Zeffirelli movie of Jane Eyre.

Adapting a classic novel to the big screen is always a dicey proposition.  The screen writer and director have a limited amount of time, yet there is so much in a classic novel that readers depend on for a satisfying experience.  Indeed, there is so much that is germane to the internal logic of a novel of depth that the story itself is resistant to adaptation within a two hour format.


 

Samantha Morton2_Jane EyreRead my review of the 1997 ITV movie of Jane Eyre.

This film adaptation of the classic novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë was originally aired on Great Britain’s ITV in March of 1997 runs approximately one hour and 45 minutes.  Obviously, a great deal had to be cut from the story in order to fit it into that kind of time parameter, but Kay Mellor’s script concentrates rightly on the romance between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester and the Gothic suspense of Thornfield.

Jane Eyre 1996

Jane Eyre 1996Adapting a classic novel to the big screen is always a dicey proposition.  The screen writer and director have a limited amount of time, yet there is so much in a classic novel that readers depend on for a satisfying experience.  Indeed, there is so much that is germane to the internal logic of a novel of depth that the story itself is resistant to adaptation within a two hour format.  That was proven conclusively with the BBC film Pride and Prejudice, presented as a television mini-series five hours long.

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre presents particular problems because each of the three distinct elements of the story warrants telling, yet the third section is difficult to fit into a film.  Adapted for the screen by Hugh Whitemore and legendary director Franco Zeffirelli, this 1996 script, like others before it, concentrates on Jane’s childhood and her relationship with the master of Thornfield Hall, but compresses the third part of the book into a few hasty minutes.

For a full synopsis of the story, I refer readers to my review of the novel Jane Eyre.  In short, it is the story of a girl, Jane Eyre (Anna Paquin), in the middle years of 19th Century in England, orphaned and mistreated by her aunt, then sent to an impoverished school for girls.  She grows up to become a teacher (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and is employed at Thornfield Hall by the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax (Joan Plowright) as governess for a little French, ward of the master of the hall, Mr. Edward Rochester (William Hurt).  She falls in love with him, but he is married to a madwoman, so Jane runs away and is taken in by a clergyman, St. John (Samuel West) and his sisters.  The clergyman employs her as a school teacher, but asks her to become his wife and travel with him as a missionary.  She refuses and instead goes back to Thornfield Hall, only to find that it has been destroyed in a fire.  Discovering that Rochester’s mad wife died in the blaze, she reunites with the man she loves.

Director Franco Zeffirelli is a master at camera composition, use of landscape, and color and this film certainly reflects that.  It is beautiful in every respect and can be enjoyed simply for that aspect.  Both Anna Paquin and Charlotte Gainsbourg are wonderful as Jane Eyre at ten and seventeen.  They look so much alike that they are certainly believable as the same person.  That Gainsbourg is made to look plain is a step above most adaptations of the novel and it makes her extra believable in the role.  She also infuses the character with the simplicity and independence that make Jane Eyre such a memorable character.  The creation of Jane Eyre in this film is really terrific!  William Hurt is fine as Rochester, though he is plainly a little too good looking for the part.  There are also a few times when I didn’t believe him as an Englishman, although there is nothing glaring about the performance.  It is solid, but not overly impressive.  The supporting cast is really terrific, especially Joan Plowright as Mrs. Fairfax, Leanne Rowe as Helen Burns, John Wood as Mr. Brocklehurst, Fiona Shaw as Mrs. Reed, Geraldine Chaplin as Miss Scatcherd, Amanda Root as Miss Temple, Billie Whitelaw as Grace Poole, and Maria Schneider as Rochester’s mad wife Bertha.  Elle McPherson, the model, also makes a cameo as Blanche Ingram, the society woman set on marrying Rochester for his money.

Zeffirelli spends adequate time on Jane’s childhood, especially in framing the friendship between her and Helen Burns.  The middle section that concentrates on the evolving relationship between Jane and Rochester is extremely well done.  The affection between them is difficult to achieve, partly because they are such different people, but Gainsbourg and Hurt work very well together and Zeffirelli helps the viewers to see it happening without using words.  It is masterfully done.

Whitemore and Zeffirelli take a big chance, however, by introducing the characters of St. John and his sister Mary as go-betweens when Jane’s aunt Mrs. Reed becomes ill before dying.  Although it tightens up the plot in a creative way, it also puts in place the means of Jane ending up with them later on and leads the screenwriters to completely eliminate what might be the best scene in the entire work: Jane’s wandering the moors alone after she leaves Rochester.  In the novel and in other screen adaptations the scene is extremely powerful.  Jane, without caring for her own life, wanders aimlessly, sleeps in a ditch and is at death’s doorstep when she stumbles onto St. John’s home.  By cutting out that scene, the screen writers have her go directly to St. John based on his prior association with her and her illness is skirted over very quickly.  Likewise, Jane’s enormous confusion over St. John’s proposal is also missing.  In the novel, her thoughts on the proposal provide the entire basis for her return to seek out Rochester and that inner logic hurts the entire last part of the movie.

On the other hand, Zeffirelli brings the film in at slightly under two hours.  It is a beautiful movie, with many positive aspects to it, not the least of which is the most believable Jane I’ve yet seen.  Paquin and Gainsbourg are absolutely marvelous and that means a lot in a story that absolutely depends on the believability of the title character.  I find it a little annoying that William Hurt has top billing because his character is truly ancillary to Jane.

It is a good film and should be seen by all fans of Jane Eyre.


Jane EyreRead my review of the novel Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte!

This 1847 classic novel both delights and confounds a modern reader.

Told mostly in first person past (with brief lapses into first person present) by the heroine, Jane Eyre, the book was originally subtitled An Autobiography.  It begins with Jane as a young girl of ten years as an orphan living with her Aunt Reed at Gateshead Hall.


Samantha Morton2_Jane EyreRead my review of the 1997 ITV movie of Jane Eyre.

This film adaptation of the classic novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë was originally aired on Great Britain’s ITV in March of 1997 runs approximately one hour and 45 minutes.  Obviously, a great deal had to be cut from the story in order to fit it into that kind of time parameter, but Kay Mellor’s script concentrates rightly on the romance between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester and the Gothic suspense of Thornfield.


Jane Eyre 2011Read my review of the 2011 Cary Fukunaga movie of Jane Eyre.

This adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre was produced in 2011.  Directed by Cary Fukunaga from a script by Moira Buffini, this is clearly the best of the recent movie versions of the novel.  Ms. Buffini’s script is faithful to the novel, yet innovative in the way it tells the story, bringing a passion lacking in the other attempts.

Jane Eyre 1997

Samantha Morton2_Jane EyreThis film adaptation of the classic novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte was originally aired on Great Britain’s ITV in March of 1997 runs approximately one hour and 45 minutes.  Obviously, a great deal had to be cut from the story in order to fit it into that kind of time parameter, but Kay Mellor’s script concentrates rightly on the romance between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester and the Gothic suspense of Thornfield.

This review contains plot spoilers.

Orphaned ten year old Jane Eyre (Laura Harling), horribly mistreated by her father’s family, is bundled off to the Lowood Institution, a terrible school for orphan girls, ran by the evil Reverend Brocklehurst (Michael Denigris).  She makes one close friend who dies of typhus, but grows up to become a teacher.  The adult Jane Eyre (Samantha Morton), looking to see more of the world, takes a position as governess at Thornfield Manor.  The housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax (Gemma Jones) treats her kindly and she takes charge of a little French girl, Adele (Timia Berthome).  The master of the manor, Mr. Edward Rochester (Ciarán Hinds) is a rough man who has been greatly disappointed in life.  He takes an interest in Jane and they become friends, gradually falling in love.

But Thornfield holds a great secret, which Jane gradually becomes aware of: a seemingly crazy servant, Grace Poole, wanders the house at night, giggling insanely.  Mrs. Fairfax informs Jane that Ms. Poole is kept on due to her long service to the family.  Mr. Rochester brings some of the local gentry to visit him, including a beautiful young woman, Blanche Ingram (Abigail Cruttenden) who is determine to marry Rochester.  Jane is nearly at her wits end when she receives word that her aunt is dying and has requested her presence.  While Jane is gone, Rochester misses her terribly and when she returns he proposes to her.  They have some happiness before the wedding, which is interrupted by a Mr. Mason stating that they cannot be married because Mr. Rochester already has a wife.  Rochester drags them all back to Thornfield to reveal his insane wife that he married in Jamaica, through the deception of her family.  The marriage called off, Jane runs away and is discovered unconscious in a field by a young, handsome minister, St. John (Rupert Penry-Jones) who begs her to marry him and follow him to India as a missionary.  Jane, still obsessed with Rochester, goes back to find Thornfield burned to the ground, Rochester’s wife dead, and him a blind man wallowing in his own misery.  She surprises him, they marry and have two children.

Obviously, to anyone familiar with the novel, the film leaves out a great deal of the story.  It rushes through Jane’s childhood, skips through the Lowood years, eliminates the Reeds as viable characters, leaves out her inheritance and shoots through her association with St. John, all to serve the purpose of the romance, which is quite successful.  In this adaptation, it is not a deep story, but it is skillfully told.  The direction by Robert Young is deft, using creative camera angles, deep colors, and excellent editing.

Samantha Morton really carries the move from beginning to end.  Beautiful, passionately attached to her character, she wraps the movie around her and makes everything work.  Ciarán Hinds is a fine actor, but gets carried away sometimes with his passion.  The other supporting actors, including the wonderful Gemma Jones, all add to the strong ensemble.

In this version, we may miss major parts of the story, but the arc has been honed into something that somehow works altogether.  It’s sad that a knowledge of the full work by Brontë might hinder enjoyment of this movie, but that simply can’t be avoided in any adaptation of a major novel.  The one thing we call all be thankful for is that the preachiness of the book is cut along with everything else.

I think this movie should be seen, if for no other reason than the excellent performance by Samantha Morton!


Jane EyreRead my review of the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte!

This 1847 classic novel both delights and confounds a modern reader.

Told mostly in first person past (with brief lapses into first person present) by the heroine, Jane Eyre, the book was originally subtitled An Autobiography.  It begins with Jane as a young girl of ten years as an orphan living with her Aunt Reed at Gateshead Hall.


Jane Eyre 1996Read my review of the 1996 movie Jane Eyre by Franco Zeffirelli!

Adapting a classic novel to the big screen is always a dicey proposition.  The screen writer and director have a limited amount of time, yet there is so much in a classic novel that readers depend on for a satisfying experience.


Jane Eyre 2011Read my review of the 1997 Cary Fukunaga movie of Jane Eyre.

This adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre was produced in 2011.  Directed by Cary Fukunaga from a script by Moira Buffini, this is clearly the best of the recent movie versions of the novel.  Ms. Buffini’s script is faithful to the novel, yet innovative in the way it tells the story, bringing a passion lacking in the other attempts.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane EyreThis 1847 classic novel both delights and confounds a modern reader.

Told mostly in first person past (with brief lapses into first person present) by the heroine, Jane Eyre, the book was originally subtitled An Autobiography.  It begins with Jane as a young girl of ten years as an orphan living with her Aunt Reed at Gateshead Hall. Her parents died several years earlier and she was taken on by her Uncle Reed as a ward of the family.  After her uncle’s death, she lives in misery as an obstinate, sullen girl and is mistreated by her aunt and her three cousins.  Her only friend is her governess, Bessie, who is also stern, but not malicious.

After a series of incidents, she is packed off to Lowood Institution, a school for girls run by Reverend Brocklehurst, a miserly man who starves and treats the girls to a form of discipline that would put him in jail today. She makes friends with a girl named Helen, who accepts her own punishments meekly, knowing that God sees that she is righteous and will reward her when she goes to heaven, which she does sooner rather than later when an epidemic of typhus ravages the school and she dies of “consumption.”  Under investigation, the school must change its practices and Jane receives a fair education and teaches at the school for two years after she finishes her six years as a student.

Now eighteen and wishing to find a place for herself in the world, she places an advertisement looking for work as a governess and is hired to work at Thornfield Hall. When she arrives, the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, informs her that she will be educating a French child named Adele, who is a ward of the master of the house, Mr. Rochester.

When Rochester finally arrives at Thornfield from one of his travels, he is abrupt with Jane, but comes to think very fondly of her. He tells her of his disappointment with the world and of his affair with a French dancer, who claimed that Adele was his child.  When the little girl was abandoned, he decided to make her his ward.  He seems a very tortured sort of man, but comes to value his time with Jane, seeking her conversation every evening.  She is honest and open with him, blunt at times, and he appreciates her manner.

During her stay at Thornfield, her Aunt Reed falls ill and summons her back to attend her while she’s dying. Jane finds out that her male cousin has himself committed suicide after failing to control his drinking and debauchery.  She finds a truce with her female cousins and forgives Aunt Reed before she dies.  She has learned this forbearance from her friendship with Helen at Lowood.  Before her aunt’s death, she learns of another uncle who wishes to contact her, but she doesn’t follow up on it.

Thornfield Hall is definitely a strange place.  When Jane hears laughter on the third floor, it turns out to be a most unusual woman named Grace Poole, who is employed as a seamstress.  Jane grows closer to Mr. Rochester, but one night discovers his room afire.  She puts it out and he counsels her to silence on the matter.  Rochester manipulates her into thinking he is serious about marrying a beautiful society lady in order to make her jealous.  It works and Jane grows to love him.  Finally, he asks her to marry him, but on the alter, another calamity occurs that turns the plot on its head and sends Jane off to an entirely different life.

The delights of this novel are plentiful, so much so that it is almost impossible to put down. The prose is stellar.  It carries one along as on a gentle English breeze.  The story is an utterly engaging Gothic romance, full of thrilling mystery and great characters.  It takes the time required to unfold a handful of prickly themes and it does so in a voice that completely engages the reader from beginning to end.  In all of these regards, it is an undisputed masterpiece.

For the modern reader, however, there are certain drawbacks.  The length is a serious issue.  As with most novels of the early 19th Century, it was published in multiple volumes, three to be exact.  It should have been edited quite a bit.  There are long, convoluted sentences, which were the style of the time (see Jane Austen) and at times one must exercise patience in riddling out their meaning.  The dialogue is, for the most part, completely unbelievable.  People simply don’t talk that way, then or now.

The major drawback for me was the constant pounding of the Christian message. It is a highly religious book and I find it laughable that the Quarterly Review, when it first came out, called it a “pre-eminently an anti-Christian composition.” Don’t believe it.  This book drips with religious messages.  I read the Norton Critical Edition and had to read each and every footnote just to keep up with the Biblical references.  It is also funny that one of the characters wants to become a missionary in order to stamp out “superstition.”  Toward the end of the novel, this  religiosity becomes a very serious problem indeed, interrupting the plot to such a level that the book stops dead to preach for pages on end.

Despite these drawbacks, I still found it a marvelous novel, certainly one of the best ever written. Some of the themes were quite revolutionary for the time.  Brontë gets into issues of class, morality, ethics, and feminism that were scandalous fare in 1847 and in that regard she was way ahead of her time, particularly in expounding the theme that a woman could be both independent and equal to men.  Each of the men in her life struggles to dominate her and Jane always asserts her own independence.  In addition, the writing style, especially the use of first person narration, creates a kind of inner personal universe for Jane that was a breakthrough in style and highly influential on other novelists through the early 20th Century..

It is a truly great novel, even now, and should be on everyone’s reading list.


Jane Eyre 1996Read my review of the 1996 Franco Zeffirelli movie!

Adapting a classic novel to the big screen is always a dicey proposition.  The screen writer and director have a limited amount of time, yet there is so much in a classic novel that readers depend on for a satisfying experience. 


Samantha Morton2_Jane EyreRead my review of the 1997 ITV/A&E movie!

This film adaptation of the classic novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë was originally aired on Great Britain’s ITV in March of 1997 runs approximately one hour and 45 minutes.  Obviously, a great deal had to be cut from the story in order to fit it into that kind of time parameter, but Kay Mellor’s script concentrates rightly on the romance between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester and the Gothic suspense of Thornfield.


Jane Eyre 2011Read my review of the 2011 Cary Fukunaga movie of Jane Eyre.

This adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre was produced in 2011.  Directed by Cary Fukunaga from a script by Moira Buffini, this is clearly the best of the recent movie versions of the novel.  Ms. Buffini’s script is faithful to the novel, yet innovative in the way it tells the story, bringing a passion lacking in the other attempts.