Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Watching Jane Eyre (1983)

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books. It's a book that I just love and adore. So it's only natural that I have a favorite adaptation, right?! Before viewing this 1983 adaptation starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke, my favorite Jane Eyre was the 2006 adaptation starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. (Though it's only fair to point out it was the only adaptation I'd the time. Now I've seen quite a few!) And I'll be reviewing it too in the next week or so--but this one, well, this one is the BEST one.

What makes this one the BEST version of Jane Eyre? Well, it is so very, very faithful to the book. If you LOVE the book, if you love Bronte's writing, her dialogue, her pacing, her characterization, etc., then this one could hardly disappoint. There isn't as much interpretation going on, there aren't as many liberties taken with the story, the characters, the dialogue, the scenes. For better or worse. (I admit that some (but by no means all) of the added scenes in the 2006 adaptation were lovely, were faithful in spirit to the original novel, but they still weren't exactly in the book.)

It does help that this adaptation is over five hours in length!!! 311 wonderful minutes; 11 episodes of 28 or 29 minutes apiece. Because it is so long--the perfect length in my opinion--nothing felt rushed, nothing was left out for time, nothing left unexplored. Time could be spent on her childhood, her school years, even her time as a teacher at Lowood while she's waiting to hear a reply to her advertisement. Time could be spent at Thornfield Hall; viewers get a real chance to get to know Mrs. Fairfax and Adele, a chance to be spooked by Grace Poole. And then, of course, there is the arrival of Mr. Rochester.

There is just something wonderful in Timothy Dalton's portrayal of Mr. Rochester. There is just something wonderful in his scenes with Jane. For what this adaptation realizes is that the foundation of this romance, the heart and soul of it, are revealed in their conversations together. And these are absolutely faithful to the book. Nothing is rushed or abridged; nothing is forced or assumed. Dalton's Rochester is complex, is multidimensional. And this is a must, in my opinion. He must be capable of being polite and stern and playful and teasing and charismatic and mysterious and angry and tender and soulful. He's very much a character that needs to be in control yet at the same time capable of being vulnerable. And he just feels like the right Mr. Rochester. (Orson Welles, I felt, was great at being a forceful, melodramatic Mr. Rochester. If capturing GOTHIC is your only criteria, well, he did that quite well.)

And I quite enjoyed Zelah Clarke's performance as Jane Eyre. She captured Jane's shyness and awkwardness and hesitation. But as she became more comfortable--both with herself and with Mr. Rochester--she became more outspoken, more playful, more assertive. I still saw her as an introvert, but, in my opinion that is NOT a bad thing at all. It made me love her more. In this adaptation, I felt I knew exactly why Mr. Rochester was so drawn to her: her honesty, her vulnerability. Here was a woman who was incapable of deceit, of manipulation. Here was a woman who was free from conceit and vanity and pride. Here was a woman who didn't know how to play games with men, didn't know how to flirt, how to charm, how to manipulate. And even if she knew how, she'd never dream of it.

Their relationship develops slowly but surely, and I believed every minute of it. It didn't felt rushed. And it didn't feel reliant on appearances. (Whereas in the 2011 adaptation viewers who connect with that Mr. Rochester are forced to either base the swoon factor on his appearance OR on their imagination, what they bring to the film based on their experience with the book. For it is not in his script to cause anyone to fall in love with him.) There was a genuineness in the relationship that was so refreshing.

While this adaptation isn't the absolute best at capturing the gothic ambiance, it did an adequate job at presenting things as they were: the incidences leading up to the big reveal. I personally feel that this adaptation--the 1983 one--is best at capturing what happens after the big reveal. Most make the mistake of going completely, completely over the top and to all extremes. Read the scene(s) in the book after watching some of the other adaptations and you'll see what I mean. But this one gets it just right. You can see the pain, the heartbreak, the sorrow, the regret, the tenderness, the torture.

I thought the film did a good job with Jane's cousins as well. They truly captured the hideousness of St. John Rivers!!! In some versions you merely get that he was not the one, or not the one for her, but that he wasn't a bad sort of guy. That he was capable of making someone happy, not just Jane. In this one, his views on marriage, on women, on love, on duty, on relationships was so horrid, so horrible, so offensive that it was EASY to see why he's not husband material. ("God and nature meant you for a missionary's wife. You are formed for labor, not for love. I claim you. Not for my pleasure but for my sovereign service." And if that wasn't enough...."Jane, you are docile, disinterested, faithful, and courageous. Very gentle and heroic.") Enjoyed her (unspoken) commentary on his proposal! And I loved, LOVED, loved her spoken rejection!

And I loved the ending!!!!

The Proposal
After the "Wedding,"  
Jane With Her Cousins, Receiving Her Inheritance, the other "proposal"
Fan Music Video for Jane Eyre

Have you seen this adaptation? What did you think of it? What is your favorite adaptation? Are you willing to watch other adaptations?

Watch Jane Eyre
  • If you're a fan of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre
  • If you're a fan of romantic, dramatic, mysterious movies
  • If you're a fan of Timothy Dalton
  • If you're a fan of period dramas 
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Bis said...

Fantastic book blog:) and a fantastic book, keep it up!
I'm following you, hope you do he same!

Claudia said...

I'm not a fan of Timothy Dalton, but your post makes me want to watch this movie/miniseries nonetheless. It sounds faithful to the book, so that's a big plus. Thanks for the recommendation :)

Becky said...

I wasn't a fan of Timothy Dalton myself when I picked this one up. In fact, I *only* knew Timothy Dalton from his playing Rhett Butler in Scarlett (the "sequel" to Gone With The Wind).. If I can overcome that first impression--quite a task!!!!--it must be really good!

Susan said...

I saw this version a long time ago, and it was my favourite, and then the Ciaran Hinds version came out, which I thought had a bit more spark, and showed that dark side to Rochester that he could knowingly try to marry Jane because he loved her, even though he knew it was wrong as he was already married. I recently saw the latest version done, and they caught the nightmare of Jane's cousins, but almost completely skipped over Miss Brooks and the school and her friendship, which for me is the reason Jane was able to not be bitter, but retain her sense of humour - she had been loved, had known support and friendship, before Rochester.

The version with William Hurt is also quite good, I found. Charlotte Gainsbourg made one of the best Janes, in this version, I thought.

It's interesting how many versions there are of this, aren't there?
I'm going to have to try to find this version to watch again (with Dalton)! Love your review, Becky :-)

Becky said...

Susan, I'm trying to watch as many versions as I can find. I watched the Ciaran Hinds version just last night--my review should be up in a week or two! For the most part, I did enjoy the 1997 version, I'll have lots more to say in my review of course!!! I hope to get to the 1996 version in the next week or two. (I've put it on hold at the library.)

Unknown said...

When I was a kid I watched the 1970-something BBC miniseries on Masterpiece theatre and fell in love with it. Subsequently read the book. About a year ago I rewatched this version and vowed I would never watch remake as the two actors who play Jane and Rochester are, for me, ideal. Jyst looking at Timothy Dalton there says NOT Rochester to me, too young for a start!

Anonymous said...

@Nicola Mansfield - It seems Timothy Dalton was around 39 then (born 1944, the drama is from 1983) - isn't that about the right age?


Joyful Reader said...

I have never read it but I have it on my shelf and I try not to watch a movie until I have read the book. Last night Anne of Green Gables was on and since I just purchased the set I refused to watch it! so much reading and so little time!

Becky said...

Nicola, I agree with L! I think Dalton was just about the perfect age to play Mr. Rochester. I find him more believable in the role than some others.

Joyful Reader, I'm the same way most of the time. Well, not with Anne of Green Gables, I discovered that when it first aired on Public Broadcasting in the 80s--just the right time for me to start reading the series. But *most* of the time, with most movies adapted from books I like to have read the book first.

Vicky.B said...

This adaptation is my favourite and in my opinion the best Jane Eyre! I first saw this one when I was 15, but haved watched other versions since! I think this one works best due to the fact that the story isn't rushed unlike recent adaptations! And in the the more recent adaptations the emotions acted seemed to me to be very unconvincing and forced, whereas in this version it doesn't feel acted out at all! It flows and the emotions conveyed are so believable, it makes you feel for the characters! I would highly recommend anyone to watch this version! *****