I kept myself occupied last night with a movie version of my favourite book of all time: Jane Eyre. Now, being hugely enamored with this story, I have already seen (almost) all of the other film adaptations. The TV production with Timothy Dalton from the 80s was the one I generally found to be my favourite… it’s about 4 hours long, so it really doesn’t leave much of the book out, or get rid of characters or any other annoying thing that movies sometimes do. And Timothy Dalton, while too handsome to play Mr. Rochester, is very pleasant to watch.
My next favourite was the A&E version from the 90s. Ciaran Hinds plays a much more convincing Rochester, but I didn’t find Samantha Morton to be what I pictured Jane like.
(I’m skipping over the strange version that casts William Hurt as Rochester, also from the mid-90s, because I think that’s one of the weirdest casting decisions ever.)
So anyways, the version I watched yesterday was done by Masterpiece Theatre a few years ago. And I think it may have become my new favourite! (Clearly, this is saying a lot, seeing as I have watched the other ones multiple times already).
The entire cast was brilliant, but Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens made me fall in love with the story all over again!
Initially when I saw the cover photo, I thought I recognized Toby Stephens as the scumball guy from Wives and Daughters (who flirts with both the mother and her daughter simultaneously, ick), but it turns out that’s his lookalike Iain Glen. Thank heavens! So it turns out that even though he kind of looked youngish to be playing Rochester, he gave the role such a fresh, new perspective. Rochester laughed! And not just sardonically!
Ruth Wilson I recognized for real, only I couldn’t remember where from. After I finished the movie I found out that she played in the (horrible) re-imagining of The Prisoner (which I wrote about when we saw it). She was actually one of the better parts of that movie, and certainly the highlight of this one!
Finally a Jane who can stand up to Rochester without seeming holier-than-thou, and who actually had a bit of humour and playfulness to her. Watching this adaptation was really like reading the book, only better than I could imagine it. And the ending was spectacular. One of my favourite things about the movie was how it didn’t resort to using voice-over narration, which I see as taking the easy way out.
In a book, you obviously have a narrator; that’s the nature of a book. But when I watch a movie, I like to watch it and if it’s done well enough, it shouldn’t need a narrator constantly saying, “I was so happy!” “I couldn’t believe my eyes.” “Then I left the school.” I mean, give the actors some credit– we can tell what they’re thinking and doing.
So overall, this was a brilliant production. I’m so glad they made it – after so many productions of this story, you can start to think there isn’t any new way to present it, but this one showed that it certainly is possible.
If you get the chance to watch it, either being re-broadcast on TV (probably on PBS) or on DVD (I found this copy at the library), I would definitely do it. xo
(Oh and PS: this version is also nearly 4 hours long, and in two parts. It doesn’t leave much out, and although it adds a few things in, I think they just make the whole production even better!)