Monday, October 10, 2011

Jane Eyre (2006)


Sooooo much better than the 2011 film version.  Here, the viewers are permitted to see Jane's thought life--to see that she even has a thought life.  She has intelligence, imagination, courage, self-confidence, curiosity, and passion--qualities kept well-hidden in the newest adaptation.  She reads books about exotic places, and delights in hearing Rochester's descriptions of his travels.   The two actually seem to enjoy one another's company, which makes their romance much more believable.  We get to see Jane's reaction to this her first real adult friend--we see her delight in his company and her turmoil when he dances attendance on another.  We see Jane truly engage with Rochester and stand up to him as few have done.  We see her absorb and react to unusual and frightening circumstances with calm efficiency.  And we get to see the strength of her resolve and her deep desire to act rightly in any given situation.

As a result, we are not completely surprised to discover that Rochester has fallen in love with her.  Speaking of Rochester, he is less the swooning poet of the film version and more the brusque grouch of the novel.  He is still a bit too attractive and effeminate to be the "perfect" Rochester, but he is undoubtedly a vast improvement.

The 2011 film trailer promised a tale of gothic horror and suspense and delivered a mass of pointless, boring nothing.  This Masterpiece Theatre rendition manages to tell a much creepier story, filled with mystery and danger. The cinematography may not be as impressive--it is filled with classic BBC camera angles--but the outcome is much more effective in communicating Jane's confusion and fear as she delves deeper into Thornfield's secrets.

A fairly minor critique--Jane's relationship with Helen at Lowood receives, as in the 2011 film version, the merest gloss.  The writers seem not to realize that the most important thing about Helen is not merely that she was kind to Jane and then died, but that she taught Jane--heretofore a creature of blind passion, angry at those who'd wronged her--the value of forgiveness.  It is because of Helen that Jane can emerge from her horrible upbringing with such a placid demeanor.  It is because of Helen that Jane is not plagued with bitterness at the hand life has dealt her (unlike, say, Rochester, who harbors a great deal of bitterness at life's injustices).  It is because of Helen that Jane is able to genuinely forgive her entirely unrepentant Aunt Reed.  The transition from mistreated child to strong and gracious adult does not make sense without Helen's lessons on forgiveness.

One more thing:  There are some slightly anachronistic scenes involving more physical affection than would be likely in that day and age (especially for someone of Jane's scruples), but nothing too egregious, and I suspect it was the writer's attempts to communicate to the modern viewer the depth of the characters' passion (as well as the level of temptation involved and the strength of resolve needed to resist it), which we can no longer identify absent some physical expression. 

All in all, an excellent adaptation, though I still want to see how it compares to the 1944 and 1996 versions.

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