Was it faithful to Charlotte Bronte's novel? No and Yes. OR, if you prefer, yes and no. Did every character from the book make it into the film? NO. Did every scene from the book make it into the film? NO. Did every important character and every important scene make it into the film? Well? I don't know how to answer that.
For example, in this adaptation, Jane does NOT learn that the Rivers are her cousins, and she does NOT inherit the money from her dead uncle. Rosamond Oliver and Mary Rivers have both disappeared from this adaptation. But how important are the Rivers to the story as a whole? Do people love Jane Eyre because she runs away and spends time with cousins she didn't even know she had? Or is the romance itself most important to readers and viewers?
Another example, in this adaptation, Jane does leave Thornfield Hall to visit her dying aunt, but, if you blink you'll miss it. Because within seconds of her leaving she's returned. We're told she spent a month there, but, we don't see a minute of it. You have to ask yourself if you love Jane Eyre because of those scenes, that time spent with her dying aunt, and her Reed cousins, or do you love Jane Eyre because of the main story with Mr. Rochester and his mad wife.
I happened to enjoy Samantha Morton as Jane Eyre. I really, really liked her in this role. I thought she did a great job being Jane. I loved her narration, for example. I thought she did a good job with getting the character right. She is definitely a good reason to watch this adaptation.
As for Ciaran Hinds, well, it's hard for me to say. For one thing, a couple of his scenes made me want to cringe. Truly. I did not like the way he portrayed Mr. Rochester. There were a couple of scenes I thought he was TOO angry, TOO violent, TOO forceful, TOO scary, TOO intimidating, TOO dramatic. Particularly the oh-so-crucial after-the-non-wedding, post-big-reveal scene. His temper tantrum is just so out of character. He's way too physical, too physically abusive--bordering on it anyway. And the whole scene just makes me cringe. That is NOT the way it's supposed to go, that is NOT how it was handled in the book.
And at times I felt Hinds' Mr. Rochester was not dimensional enough, sure, he got a few of the emotions down, but, did he capture the full complexity of Bronte's hero?! I'm not sure he did. Also, on a more personal note, the mustache and sideburns bothered me. From certain angles, I kept seeing Tennessee Ernie Ford. (When I wasn't thinking of this animated villain.)
I thought this was a very comfortable Jane Eyre to watch. It was just around two hours. You could sit and watch it comfortably all at once. Yes, it condensed things, yes, certain things were missing from this adaptation. But it made sense, it flowed smoothly. I found many, many things delightful about it. I enjoyed many of the scenes, of course, I had issues with a couple of scenes. I didn't particularly love the first meeting between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, I thought it was way too dramatic, definitely over-the-top. But other scenes made up for it, in my opinion.
I did think the film did a good job creating ambiance--at capturing the gothic elements of this one. There were scenes that captured the mystery, suspense, and horror of the original.
I thought Abigail Cruttenden brought something unique to Blanche Ingram--for better or worse. In this film, she was portrayed sympathetically, or more sympathetically than in other adaptations. While we're still told that she was mainly after Mr. Rochester's money, she's not portrayed one-dimensionally as vain and haughty. While she may not be exactly friendly towards "the governess." She doesn't come across as mean and deserving of what she gets. (That is Mr. Rochester using and manipulating her, leading her to believe one thing, but in all truth just trying to make Jane jealous.) Is that a good thing? Well, I suppose that depends on your perspective. Would a nice Caroline Bingley work in Pride and Prejudice? Are people so determined to not like Blanche Ingram that this slightly modified Blanche would offend? I'm not sure.
St. John Rivers is likewise portrayed sympathetically. He doesn't come across as offensively as he does in other adaptations. He actually seems quite nice, quite pleasant, as someone who actually has people-skills.
Have you seen this adaptation? What did you think of it?
Watch Jane Eyre
- If you're a fan of the book
- If you're a fan of Victorian period dramas
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews