I liked this movie. I did. I really liked it. Is it a faithful adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's novel? Not exactly. It is an interpretation of the story, changes have been made for better or worse.
For example, Mr. Brocklehurst's role has been emphasized. And his villainy can't be missed. Not just in announcing Jane Eyre a liar. Not just as a strict disciplinarian. There's a scene in the movie where Helen Burns' hair is cut because it is curly--naturally curly. Brocklehurst feels that curly hair would encourage vanity--not only in Helen but in the other girls. To 'save her soul' it must be cut. Jane protests. And the result is Helen and Jane being forced to walk around outside in the rain carrying signs that say vain and rebellious. Helen becomes deathly ill as a result of her punishment. Mr. Brocklehurst's villainy was not balanced out by the presence of a kind teacher, Miss Maria Temple. The movie eliminates her role in Jane's life. Instead Brocklehurst's cruelty is balanced out by the fair judgment and tender kindness of a Dr. Rivers. (He's played by John Sutton.) (Mr. Brocklehurst video.)
I was tempted to call this adaptation of Jane Eyre natural. But that would take some explanation! Especially if you've seen it. You know that some of the scenes are OVER-THE-TOP dramatic, nothing natural to them. (I'm thinking especially of when Mr. Rochester is repeatedly telling Jane to say that she will marry him.)
The romance. I thought it was very well done. I could see Mr. Rochester falling in love with Jane Eyre. And it was easy to see why he was drawn to her. Because the movie captured who Jane was. And I could see Jane Eyre falling in love with Mr. Rochester. So much of Edward's character is revealed through dialogue, so any time it's abridged there is a risk that the essentials will be lost. I didn't feel that to be the case here. Does Orson Welles capture ALL the essential elements of Mr. Rochester? I'm not sure that he does. I mean every adaptation tends to interpret his disposition a little differently. Is this Rochester too dramatic? I wouldn't say that. I mean one or two scenes come to mind that are a little over done. But then again, I think the same could be said of the more recent adaptations. (I'm thinking of Rochester reacting to Jane's leaving him after the big reveal in RAGE.) I happened to love how this Mr. Rochester reacted to Jane's goodbye.
All but the last twenty minutes of the film take place BEFORE the big reveal. At this point I thought Jane stumbling across her cousins and staying in hiding for months a bit unlikely. How could she even have time to get there, receive her inheritance, and return to Edward in such a short amount of time?! And I was right. It wasn't attempted. Instead the movie has Jane taking refuge somewhere else, somewhere perhaps a little unexpected at first. But the more I thought about it, the more the change worked for me. If you've seen this one, I'd be curious what you think of the changes!
Jane and Edward Meeting.
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews