This summer I've met ten Jane Eyres and ten Mr. Rochesters. I've had a lot of fun spending time watching so many different adaptations of this classic novel. So which Jane Eyre is the best Jane Eyre? Who is my favorite Mr. Rochester? Which Jane Eyre would I recommend most? Well, I thought I would share my thoughts on all the films I've seen...
Black and white film starring Colin Clive and Virginia Bruce. This hour-long adaptation is comedic. It features a rather unique interpretation of Adele, for example. An Adele that gets stuck in a tree, an Adele that falls into a giant vase, an Adele that actually charms the guests, an Adele that begs Mr. Rochester to marry Jane. Mr. Rochester's preference for Jane is obvious; in this adaptation he actually ignores Blanche Ingram and dances with Jane Eyre. It may not be faithful to the novel--Mr. Rochester is seen talking with his lawyer about getting an annulment, he's actually just waiting for the paperwork to come through before he's free to marry again--it is good for a few laughs.
- Adele has a personality.
- Viewers get a unique opportunity to see Bertha Mason when she's not acting insane
- Is available to watch online
- Virginia Bruce doesn't act like Jane or look like Jane.
- Great liberties are taken with plot and characterization.
Black and white film starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. Orson Welles is WONDERFUL as Mr. Rochester. This film is melodrama at its best; very, very gothic. The proposal scene with the lightning strike, for example. It can be a little over-the-top at times, I admit, but Orson Welles is forceful and charismatic and a joy to watch! It's no surprise that Joan Fontaine is swept away. Joan is one of the older Jane Eyres, which is interesting because she's paired with one of the youngest Mr. Rochesters! (Orson Welles, 29, Joan Fontaine, 27) Still, their romance is completely believable.
- Jane's childhood is wonderfully portrayed. Agnes Moorehead is a WONDERFUL Mrs. Reed, and Henry Daniell makes a fantastically evil Mr. Brocklehurst. Helen Burns is played by Elizabeth Taylor. Young Jane is played by Peggy Ann Garner. EVERYONE does a great job.
- The romance is so STRONG; yes, it's melodramatic at times, but this Mr. Rochester is very swoon-worthy!!!
- The abridgment makes complete sense; it stands alone as a film and works quite well.
- The actors don't match the ages of the characters
- The adaptation isn't faithful--in terms of plot--with the novel
Black and white TV episode for Studio One in Hollywood starring Charlton Heston as Edward Rochester and Mary Sinclair as Jane Eyre. While I can say that the Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive adaptation of Jane Eyre was worth watching, I'm not sure I can say the same of this one. Mary Sinclair is closer to looking the part of Jane Eyre--though the costumes are lacking, in my opinion. But she still doesn't act the part of Jane Eyre. There is nothing reserved about her, she's always gushing about something, or someone, like when she confesses all to Mrs. Fairfax during the "party" scene.
- Available to view online complete with two or three commercials for Westinghouse products (electric range stove with TWO ovens; electric sheet)
- Interesting camera angles (though I don't agree with the theory that zooming in on candles or other objects "makes" a film appear gothic)
- Bad costumes
- Bad acting
This color film stars George C. Scott and Susannah York. It is an abridged adaptation of the novel, but we do get to see part of Jane's childhood in this film, AND, we do get to meet the Rivers family. True, Jane doesn't learn that they are her cousins, and, true, she doesn't get her inheritance in this adaptation. It is not faithful to the book exactly, but, it's not as free as the 1934 or 1949 adaptations.
- Does a better job than some of the earlier adaptations in capturing the whole story of Jane Eyre, but, it's far from perfect, far from complete. We don't meet the Reeds at all in this adaptation. Jane doesn't receive her inheritance, but, she does receive a proposal from St. John Rivers.
- Not the best acting
- Not the best costumes
- Feels a bit dated; the soundtrack does not help in this regard
- Susannah York was too old to play Jane Eyre believably
BBC TV miniseries starring Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston. It is around four hours long. It is quite faithful to the book. It doesn't just touch on every part of the story, viewers get to watch it all unfold. Between the dialogue and the narration (voiced by Cusack), viewers essentially "have the novel read" to them. Not really. But it sometimes feels that way. Michael Jayston does a GREAT job in bringing Charlotte Bronte's hero to life. Using Bronte's own words, he's ready to make Jane (and viewers) swoon. (He certainly made me LOVE him). He captures the many sides of Mr. Rochester. (I was quite giddy in places!!!) And I just LOVED the ending. If this adaptation has a fault, however, it would be that Sorcha Cusack's Jane is too quick, too clever, too in control. The narration can also be intrusive and distracting at times. But. For the most part, this adaptation is worth viewing especially if you're patient. If you don't love the book, if you're just looking for quick and easy entertainment, this probably won't be for you.
- Very faithful to the book, for the most part. It's not that the adaptation doesn't take some liberties here and there, it's just that most of the time they are so consistent that small differences don't take away the joy of the whole.
- Very faithful in terms of dialogue between Jane and Edward
- May prove too long to some viewers
- Lacks the quality of a 'real' film (this was a TV miniseries in the 1970s)
- Jane's narration can be REALLY annoying at times
- Appears a bit dated in some ways
BBC TV miniseries starring Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton. It is over FIVE hours long. Viewers get to spend over five wonderful, glorious hours with Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre. This one is very faithful to the novel, and a pure delight to watch!!! Loved Timothy Dalton's portrayal of Mr. Rochester. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED to see him bring to life all the dimensions of Bronte's hero. Here viewers get to see how the *real* Mr. Rochester dressed up as gypsy, and here, viewers get to see Rochester's proper reaction to the big reveal as Jane prepares to leave him. (Though I must admit Jayston did a WONDERFUL job with this as well.) Loved the playful banter between Jane and Edward.
Where this one may fail a little is in the gothic department. While the romance worked wonderfully, it didn't really capture everything that could be captured from the book. It wasn't mysterious and suspenseful and gothic. It wasn't great at being melodramatic.
- Incredibly faithful to the book (as is the 1973 adaptation)
- Very faithful in terms of dialogue between Jane and Edward
- The romance works really, really well
- Zelah Clarke is practically perfect in her role as Jane
- Timothy Dalton is perfect in his role of Edward Rochester
- Has a very horrid St. John Rivers!
- It is OVER FIVE hours long. Not every viewer wants to spend that much time with Jane and Edward.
- It may seem dated to modern viewers
- A miniseries from the 1980s, like the 1973 adaptation, this one looks more like a staged play.
Film starring William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg. I think Charlotte Gainsbourg makes a very lovely Jane Eyre. I really loved her portrayal of Jane. I thought it worked really well. She was just a delight to watch! William Hurt does a nice job as Mr. Rochester. His portrayal is not as forceful, as charismatic as Orson Welles, but, he did move me more than George C. Scott, Colin Clive, and Charlton Heston. While he can appear cranky, moody, or grumpy, viewers don't get the idea that he has a lot of rage and anger inside of him. He does appear broken and frustrated, but, not in an out-of-control way.
- One of the better shorter adaptations
- Charlotte Gainsbourg makes a great Jane Eyre
- Liked how Mr. Rochester did not respond with violence and threats to Jane when she left him.
- Enjoyed seeing Jane Eyre paint and draw; loved seeing her sketch Helen and Rochester, for example. It felt natural and right.
- Really loved the score or soundtrack of this one
- The portrayal of Mr. Rochester isn't as forceful or charismatic as it could be. For better or worse. He's not over the top or melodramatic. He's not too angry or too violent. But he doesn't come across as passionate either.
- Not as faithful in detail to the original novel; St. John Rivers is NOT her cousin, but, is instead a rector near Gateshead, she first meets him and his sister, Mary, while visiting her dying aunt.
A&E Film starring Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds. This adaptation could have worked well for me, if only, if only, if only Ciaran Hinds had done a better job with Mr. Rochester. He tries so very, very, very hard to be mean and angry. It does sound like he's always yelling. And there were scenes when I felt he was just getting it all wrong. He was too angry, too violent, too destructive; Yelling his lines does not make him complex as a character. It doesn't mean that his portrayal was as forceful or as charismatic as Orson Welles. Watching some of his scenes made me want to cringe. There were some scenes that felt more restrained, but, they didn't feel exactly natural to me either. I never really believed that he WAS the character. Everything felt acted. But. I must say that I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Samantha Morton as Jane Eyre. I did!!! I thought she was delightful and wonderful. She is everything I imagined Jane to be. She felt just right in the role, a natural in the role. And the abridgment wasn't horrible either. I've seen worse. This film had great potential, but, it didn't quite work for me. I loved elements of it and hated elements of it. For example, Ciaran Hinds took Mr. Rochester to whole other level when he reacted too strongly to Jane's departure. After the big reveal, he took the character where he had no business going. That scene was just WRONG on so many levels. It does a good job at tainting the rest of the film for me.
- Samantha Morton is a WONDERFUL Jane Eyre. I loved everything about her portrayal.
- While it may not be quite as enjoyable, overall, as the 1996 adaptation. It is A LOT better than the 1970 adaptation!!! The film is lovely in places, and well worth watching.
- This adaptation had just the right amount of narration.
- Presents some of the characters differently than in the book.
- Is definitely an abridgment that makes some changes. She does NOT inherit money in this one, for example.
- Ciaran Hinds is NOT my ideal Rochester. I did NOT like his portrayal of the character at all.
BBC miniseries starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. This film isn't quite four hours long. It has plenty of time to be faithful to the book, but is it? Every viewer will probably have an opinion on that. I feel it does take liberties with the dialogue--meaning that the words Jane and Rochester speak do not necessarily come from Bronte, and they may not even be true-in-spirit to Bronte's original. Also, there are a few scenes that take a LOT of liberty.
- Great film, has plenty of gothic ambiance, very entertaining.
- Gives the appearance of being faithful to the book, for the most part, covers Jane's childhood, her school years, her leaving Lowood for Thornfield, etc. A good amount of time is even spent with the Rivers.
- Nice romance between Jane and Edward; I felt too much liberty was taken here, but, for the most part it worked.
- The film is a nice length; longer than some adaptations (1944, 1970, 1996, 1997) and shorter than others (1973, 1983).
- Not as faithful to the book as I'd hoped; some liberties are taken with some characters
Film starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. This film definitely has a feel and style all its own. It is completely unique in its storytelling--among Jane Eyres, at least. It begins with Jane RUNNING away from Mr. Rochester and his mad wife, Bertha Mason. A desperate Jane Eyre is your first impression. It is only after she finds refuge with the Rivers family (not her cousins, by the way) that her story unfolds in a series of flashbacks. This is not my favorite Jane Eyre adaptation. I don't think Mia Wasikowska is the best Jane ever. But I don't think she's the worst either. I think her portrayal is good. And if given enough time on screen, perhaps, Michael Fassbender could have made a good Rochester. But there's not enough time spent with the characters, with Jane and Edward, to develop a satisfying romance. I think I would be able to enjoy this film more IF it had had a proper ending. I feel this movie has a non-ending. (Another Jane Eyre film with an unsatisfying ending is the 1970 adaptation.) The ending needed to wow, to be as magical as the 1996 ending OR the 2006 ending. It needed something MORE. Instead it has a blink and you'll miss it ending.
- Unique and original in its storytelling; you may love it, you may hate it, but it knows how to be different from all the other adaptations
- Good film, very gothic, great at ambiance; looks beautiful
- Mia Wasikowska is a believable Jane Eyre
- Judi Dench is a good Mrs. Fairfax
- Michael Fassbender's portrayal of Mr. Rochester didn't quite satisfy me. I think if he'd acted better after the big reveal; if he hadn't been portrayed as out of control and violent and over-the-top, then, I might have liked him better. His reaction is NOT as bad as Ciaran Hinds, however.
- Perhaps because of its arrangement, it doesn't necessarily feel true to the book; this could just be perception, however.
- Not enough time spent with dialogue between Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre; not quite enough character development.
10) Charlton Heston
9) George C. Scott
8) Colin Clive
7) Ciaran Hinds
6) Michael Fassbender
5) William Hurt
4) Toby Stephens
3) Orson Welles
2) Michael Jayston
1) Timothy Dalton
And now for my Jane Eyres
10) Mary Sinclair
9) Susannah York
8) Virginia Bruce
7) Joan Fontaine
6) Mia Wasikowska
5) Sorcha Cusack
4) Ruth Wilson
3) Charlotte Gainsbourg
2) Samantha Morton
1) Zelah Clarke
The best adaptation around two hours: Jane Eyre (1944);
The best adaptation over two hours: Jane Eyre (1983)
Well worth watching: 1973, 2006, 1996, 2011, 1997
Worth watching just for laughs: 1934, 1949
Least Favorite: 1970
My favorite soundtrack: 1996
My least favorite soundtrack: 1970
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews