Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Watching Jane Eyre (1996)

This week I'm sharing my thoughts on the 1996 film, Jane Eyre. This adaptation stars Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane Eyre and William Hurt as Edward Rochester.

I have been having so much FUN watching all these adaptations of Jane Eyre. You might not think it would be fun to watch Jane Eyre and only Jane Eyre for weeks at a time, but, surprisingly enough I am having a delightful time with this project of mine. Why? Even though not every adaptation gets every, little thing right, even though some interpretations of Bronte's original novel don't make me giddy in delight--even though a few scenes in a few adaptations make me cringe--I have found enough to enjoy in each and every adaptation.

For the most part I enjoyed this adaptation of Jane Eyre. I really enjoyed William Hurt as Mr. Rochester. I think he did a good job in capturing Charlotte Bronte's hero. Perhaps he isn't fully-fully realized or brought to life in this adaptation, a few scenes are missing, a few exchanges are missing, but, for the most part he plays the role right. (The gypsy-fortune-teller scene is missing from this adaptation. And some of the couple's conversations are cut short or eliminated from this abridgment.)

The film did a good job in adapting two tricky scenes. I thought this film did a great job in portraying the first meeting between Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre. This is closer to how I imagined it from the book. Perhaps this stood out to me because I thought it was done so horribly in the 1997 adaptation.
The second scene that has proved oh-so-tricky to get right is after-the-non-wedding, post-big-reveal scene. This movie gets a passing score not so much for what it does, but for what it doesn't do. It isn't a monstrous temper tantrum or a make-out session. Rochester isn't yelling, screaming, grabbing, pushing, pulling, or demanding.

NOW, what happens after she leaves, well, that certainly deviates from the book!!! Perhaps it took inspiration from the 1934 film?

Overall, this one does take liberties with the book. It is not as faithful as it could be. St. John Rivers is not her cousin, he is rector at Gateshead or near Gateshead. She meets St. John Rivers and his sister, Mary Rivers, not in her desperate hour of need when she's running away from Mr. Rochester, but, instead when she goes to visit her dying Aunt Reed. She returns to them after her bitter disappointment, but, they are already acquainted with her. She does inherit her money (unlike the 1997 adaptation) but she's never as desperate and friendless in this one. For St. John Rivers and his sister know they are taking care of a wealthy heiress.

My general thoughts are this was a very nice, very pleasant, very enjoyable, non-offensive adaptation of Jane Eyre. It may not be WOW, WOW, WOW this is the best Jane Eyre EVER, but, it works really well, in my opinion. It's a nice abridgment, nothing *too* essential was lost. And the romance was nicely done. I thought the age difference between the two worked. (In some adaptions, they are too close together in age to be believable as Jane and Edward. For example, in the 1944 adaptation starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.) I enjoyed both William Hurt's portrayal as Mr. Rochester and Charlotte Gainsbourg's portrayal as Jane Eyre. Essentially, I thought they got all the most important elements right in this adaptation. True, it could have been longer, and if it had been longer, they could have been more faithful to the book or even more faithful to the book. But I think they did a good job in capturing the heart of the original. For this reason, I think I prefer it now to the 2006 adaptation. And I definitely prefer it to the 1997 adaptation.

First conversation
Second conversation
Third conversation
Jane Rescues Mr. Rochester (fire scene)
Blanche Ingram and "guests" on governesses
The Proposal 
The Wedding
Jane Leaves Mr. Rochester after the big reveal

Have you seen this adaptation? What did you think? Do you have a favorite adaptation?

Other Jane Eyre (movie) reviews

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tasha B. 12:35 PM  

I agree, this is definitely better than the 1997 version, but to me it seems a little flat and boring. For some reason I'm super-attached to the gypsy scene and I get annoyed that this film doesn't have it in there. I also feel that while Hurt does an okay job, he's too pretty to be Rochester.

Becky 2:10 PM  

Tasha, I am attached to the gypsy scene too. If memory serves, it's only in the 1973 and 1983 adaptations. I want to say that the 2006 movie has a variation of it--in that there is a gypsy, but the gypsy isn't Mr. Rochester himself. I think the 1996 Jane Eyre does play it safe, in a way, which is why I can understand why some would feel it a bit flat. I think it doesn't really take risks...for better or worse.
What I do absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about this one is the soundtrack. It is wonderful!!! The soundtrack was released several years after the movie.

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