Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jane Eyre: The Movies (Part 1)

   I knew there were a number of versions of Jane Eyre, but until I started planning for this post, I wasn’t quite aware of the abundance of them. Since there are so many versions I’m reviewing here, I’ll split it up into two posts. The first will have brief reviews for all the movies, and the second will have my recommendations, favorite portrayals, recognizable actors, and more.

Note: These reviews are mainly written for people who are acquainted with the story, and my recommendations are only partial. To read my book review, click here. If you are looking for which movie(s) I recommend, that will be in Part 2.

Jane Eyre 2011
   The first time I heard about this movie, I saw that it was rated PG-13 and thought “Oh, well never mind.” In our house, a PG-13 movie is so much of a rarity that I can’t actually remember one before this. (Yes, we are very picky.) So I didn’t even think about watching this one until I heard reports from trusted sources. I was told that really, the only thing to kick it up into PG-13 was some (unrealistic) nude woman painting. Why they stuck that in there who can know, and I am quite annoyed by it. Of course we skipped that part. (Well, there’s actually two – the first one is very brief so I just looked away, the second I had to fast-forward.)
   Now, I had heard about the disappointing aspects of this movie before I watched it, so I think I was more disposed to notice its good points, and to like it. Its main problem is the length. As my mom said, “It’s good, there just isn’t enough of it.”
   I liked how they paid attention to details, such as hair color. (I was getting awfully tired of blonde-haired Miss Ingrams!!) Of course this movie has its ‘whims and inconsistencies,’ but the storyline follows the book, the majority of the conversations/quotes were from the book, and there were some things they had that none of the other ones got.
   The main thing they left out was Jane and the Rivers being related, which is an important part of the story. The shorter ones always tend to leave that out. The part where she was with the Rivers, when she was teaching at the school, St. John’s proposal, etc. was still much closer to the book than many of the other ones.
   The way it’s made is rather confusing, especially for someone who doesn’t know the story yet. It starts with Jane leaving Thornfield, and the Rivers taking her in. During this time she has flashbacks to her childhood, and as she recovers through the time she’s teaching she has flashbacks to the main part of the story, at Thornfield. Fortunately the last flashback is very long and catches up to the ‘present time.’
   The movie ends rather abruptly and without enough explanation, which rather disappointed me, but I enjoyed it all in all – and I definitely think it’s the best of the newish, shorter versions.
   I would suggest, especially if you are not very acquainted with the story, watching the deleted scenes “Badminton in the garden” and “Bertha rips wedding veil in Jane’s room.” Those scenes include essential parts of the story, and I don’t know why they were left out.
Jane: Mia Wasikowska
Rochester: Michael Fassbender
Length: 2 hours
My grade: A- (probably; but I’ve only seen it once)

2006 mini-series (Masterpiece Theatre)
   I don’t know about now, what with the new movie – but I think that for many years, this was considered the Jane Eyre. As it is a mini-series, it has time to cover the whole story; and it is well-made, so more enjoyable than the older versions. The problem is, that while the whole story may be there and much of it is tolerably close to the book, they also added things; and these things are what I object to. Like the guests at Thornfield playing a “game” involving a ouija board? And then while they didn’t leave the gypsy part out as most of them do, instead of having Mr. Rochester dress up and pretend to be a gypsy woman (which was very funny in the book!) he hires a real one (or some sort of old woman) to do it, and he just listens in.
   There are also some unlike-Jane actions and flashbacks to Mr. Rochester’s past that I have heard are inappropriate, which is why I haven’t seen the whole thing. I watched up to the point of the proposal, skipping Rochester’s flashback to Adele’s mother (as I was instructed to) and the ouija board scene. I did quite enjoy what I saw.
   This actor probably did one of the best Mr. Rochester portrayals, but it just isn’t him to me. But then none of them are. (I’ll get to that in my Part 2 post.) I liked the Jane in some ways, but she was ill-suited in others and sometimes annoyed me a bit.
   Some people watch this through without objections; it has its good points...if you choose to watch it, since this is my review, I’ll forewarn you that it has some ‘adult content,’
  And don’t judge a book by its movie. ;-)
Jane: Ruth Wilson
Rochester: Toby Stephens
Length: 3 hr. 22 min.
My grade: N/A (as I haven’t seen the whole thing)

1997 (A&E)
   I often refer to this version as “the Harriet Smith one,” because Samantha Morton (who played Jane) was Harriet Smith in the A&E version of Emma. (hehe)
   The first time I saw this version, before I read the book, I liked it pretty well, although I didn’t much care for the main character’s portrayals. When I watched it again last month, I hardly liked it at all, because then I knew just how different from the book it was. It follows the story line without making things up, but it leaves a lot out, and does make up, if not all, then most of the conversations. I like the conversations in the book, and don’t think they need to be changed. I can’t like anything about the Mr. Rochester – he’s way too…yellish, loud, and gruff. Yes, Mr. Rochester can be all those things some of the time and in part, but this was different…much worse and to me, repulsive. Jane I didn’t really care for either, but she wasn’t too bad.
   I liked how Jane was narrating throughout the movie (the book is written in first person), but the problem was, they didn’t take Jane’s narrations from the book, they just made them up. In short, it would be pretty good if it wasn’t supposed to be based on a book. It’s pretty much a brief overview, not inaccurate to the storyline, but inaccurate in many ways to the characters.
Jane: Samantha Morton
Rochester: Ciaran Hinds
Length: 1 hr. 48 min.
My grade: B

1996 (Miramax)
I have mixed feelings about this version. In some ways I really love it, but in others it’s a disappointment. It starts out tolerably well, with the usual additions and subtractions, and when she’s at Thornfield it’s quite good, I think. This is sort of a side note, but I don’t know what’s up with these people, making Jane have spent 10 years at Lowood rather than 8. It happens in several versions – humph. Well, anyways. A lot of the conversations between Jane and Mr. Rochester are taken from the book, although sometimes mixed around a bit, and some parts I especially like taken out.
   Once Jane goes back to Gateshead to visit the dying Mrs. Reed, the storyline starts to stray from the book. For some odd reason, St. John Rivers is at Gateshead overseeing matters or something, and that’s when Jane meets him. (??)
   The proposal scene is something I pay particular attention to (in fact, for most of the versions I've kept a tally as to accuracy to the book). In this one, I liked the proposal scene…while a lot was missing from it, most the things that were said were from the book.
   After that it pretty much just skips right to the wedding. That part’s close enough to the book, but then afterwards, that long, dramatic conversation between Jane and Rochester that’s in the book is practically nonexistent. Jane packs her bag, and emerges from her room (not feeling faint), and Mr. Rochester is in the hall. He says “I love you. Say you love me,” to which she responds “I love you more than ever. But this is the last time I shall ever say it.” Then she leaves, and he tries to follow her, when he is…interrupted…by…Thornfield burning. Already. Right after Jane leaves. (Can you tell I’m annoyed by this?)
   Jane then goes purposefully to the Rivers’ house, since she’s already met them at the time of her aunt’s death. (??) And there is only a Mary Rivers. (In the ’97 version there was only Diana). She does get her inheritance from John Eyre, but does not find out she was related to the Rivers. After that it’s tolerably close to the book again; as much so as the other two shorter newish versions.
   I rather like the Jane in this version. She’s not short enough, though.
Jane: Charlotte Gainsbourg
Rochester: William Hurt
Length: about 2 hrs.
My grade: B+

1983 mini-series (BBC)
   This was the first Jane Eyre I ever watched, and personally I’m glad I saw this one first, because it has the whole story. It only gives you a partial understanding the characters though (especially Mr. Rochester) and like all the BBC 70s and 80s mini-series, it’s slow-moving and not very well made. I do think it is an improvement over several others, though.
   While it is very close to the book, it’s definitely not exactly like it. It has its whims and inconsistencies, its additions and subtractions as well. If you want to know the whole story but don’t want to read the book (or read the book yet), this would be a good one to watch. But I’ll talk more about that in my Part 2 post.
   Note: if you “faint at the sight of blood,” be warned there is a lot of it in this version when Mr. Mason is wounded.  
Jane: Zelah Clarke (who was 29—much too old for the part)
Rochester: Timothy Dalton
Length: 5 hr. 11 min. (?)
My grade: B

1973 mini-series (BBC)
   I haven’t seen much of this one; it hasn’t come in at the library yet for me, and so I just watched a few clips of major scenes on the internet in preparation for this post. I am not sure I want to watch the whole thing. It could just be because I’ve seen so many Jane Eyres lately, but this one seemed very slow-moving. Also, the main actors were annoying me quite. One would think that actress' forehead would hurt from raising her eyebrows so much... Anyways, I was thinking while I watched the clips that I’d much rather be reading the book. The characters in my head do so much better.
   It has a lot of narration from the book, but it’s too much—with narration in the middle of conversations like that, it seems almost like an audio book acted out.
   I’m sure it’s very close to the book as far as story goes (although not one of the versions got the fire scene right – in the book Jane puts the fire out all by herself before Mr. Rochester wakes up), but it would really be much more worthwhile to read the book itself.
   The hair-bumps were rather amusing.
Jane: Sorcha Cusack
Rochester: Michael Jayston
Length: 4 hr. 25 min. (?)
My grade: N/A

1970
Jane: Mrs. Cratchit
Mr. Rochester: Ebenezer Scrooge
   The two leading roles have those parts in my favorite version of A Christmas Carol. George C. Scott makes an excellent Scrooge, but he does not make an excellent Mr. Rochester. The end.
   Just kidding. Not the end. Susannah York wasn’t anything like Jane either, and much too old for the part. (However, she did make a good Mrs. Cratchit. “I wish he were here, and I’d give him a piece of my mind to feast upon!”)
   It seemed very poorly made. The general storyline (except for while Jane was at Lowood) didn’t stray too much from the book, but everything else seemed very unlike. I wouldn't bother watching it if I were you.
   Now the end.
Jane: Susannah York
Rochester: George C. Scott
Length: 1 hr. 50 min.
My grade: C-

1943
   For a black-and-white adaptation of a classic novel, this was actually surprisingly close to the book. It has problems, but compared to the 1934 version…well…
   Most of the problems were when Jane was at Lowood, and after she leaves Thornfield. They made up and mixed up several things in those spots.
   The hair was rather diverting. Jane’s hair just looked like a 1940s style with a hair attachment added to the back, and when it was a bun it was hardly noticeable. And then Blanche Ingram’s hair! Ha ha! It was so obviously a wig – and a blonde one, I might add – you could see her real hair underneath it.
   I didn’t hardly like the Rochester, but then I didn’t expect to. He’s better than some though. Jane was better than some, too.
   If you like old movies, I can recommend this one. But maybe that’s just because I expected it to be nothing like the book.
Jane: Joan Fontaine
Rochester: Orson Welles
Length: 1 hr. 36 min.
My grade: B-

1934
How do I begin? This one was….uhhhhhh….
Well, I didn’t actually watch the whole thing. Our library system doesn’t have it, so I watched a lot of it on YouTube. Seriously, it seems like someone told the very general storyline to the script writer, who then took their very meager knowledge and made everything else up. (That’s how I felt about the 1931 Frankenstein as well…and it has another similarity in the main guy role being played by the same actor. ha) I can’t even compare it to the book, because it is SO different. Only watch it if you want to laugh at how different and how silly it is.
Jane: Virginia Bruce
Rochester: Colin Clive
Length: 62 min.
My grade: D

Well, that’s all for now. Stay tuned for my Part 2 post next week. That’s where I’ll have my favorite version, favorite character portrayals, a poll, and more.

So, which ones have you seen?


Part 2

10 comments:

Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

I seen clips of a lot of the Jane Eyres, but I've only seen two versions all the way through.

Haven't seen the 2011 version. I know how you feel about PG-13 movies. Even though I'm over 13, I'm still a bit hesitant to watch most PG-13 movies, especially recent ones (though there are a couple of older PG-13 movies that are okay with me, but not too many). Most of what is rated PG-13 now would have been rated R ten years ago from what I've heard. Though from what I've heard about this version and the rating, those painting scenes could have been skipped over without loss to the plot, so that would make those scenes unnecessary. I'm guessing if it wasn't for those scenes, the film would have been rated PG?

I've only seen half of the 2006 version. The game scene was very strange and unnecessary. I didn't watch the second half after I found out about the future content in the preview.

Only seen clips of the 1997 version, but I could tell that Ciaran Hind's Mr. Rochester was too violent. Throwing down Jane's luggage from the second floor after she leaves her room and ignores him? That's a bit extreme even for him...

The 1996 version I've seen all the way through twice (once in school and once on YouTube). It's okay. I liked this Jane the best. But yeah, the plot kind of twisted around in odd directions in relation to the Riverses.

Seen clips of the 1983 version. It does look a little slow moving, but it seems mostly accurate. Timothy Dalton's Mr. Rochester annoyed me (but they all do), but he was pretty accurate.

Again, only clips of the 1973 version. I think the entire thing is on YouTube. I'm glad that I wasn't the only one who noticed Jane's high eyebrows! haha! From what I've seen of this one, it isn't that great. Too much narration. Plus Mr. Rochester would kiss Jane in the middle of a sentence after they got engaged, which got annoying quickly.

Saw one or two scenes from the 1970 version. It didn't impress me very much.

The 1940s one I've seen all the way through. It was okay. I've only seen it once, though.

Saw part of one clip from the 30s version (notice part of one clip). Didn't look very good.

Sorry that was a bit of a long post!

Miss Dashwood said...

I haven't seen any of the JE movies, but I'll be impudent and comment just the same. I laughed exceedingly at your cast list for the 1970 adaptation. You sound like me. :)
Oh, and I was reading the 1973 review rather fast, and when I came to the man who played Rochester I thought it said Michael Jackson, and I thought, "WHAT!" In a perfect Mr. Darcy-voice, of course.
Then I read it again and realized my error. :P
Eagerly anticipating part two--as I said, I haven't seen any of them, so I will appreciate your recommendation.

Jessica said...

I just watched the 2011 this weekend. :-) I liked it pretty well, although why they skipped those two scenes you mentioned, I don't know. If you don't watch them, you never know who Adele's mother was to Rochester, and there aren't enough "spooky" parts involving Bertha.ha
I am glad that they left some of the deleted scenes out, however. Some were quite odd. Such as the ones with Helen Burns lurking in them and the one of Adele screaming. Very strange.
As you know, I have seen the 1980s version, the Harriot Smith version, the other 90s one and the 2006 mini-series. Fast forwarding the parts you mentioned, of course. ;-)

Melody said...

Miss Elizabeth,
I enjoyed your long comment! =)
Yes, I think if it wasn't for the painting it would be rated PG like the rest. There really wasn't anything else...I mean when Mason was wounded was enough to make me look away, but I've seen just as bad/worse on other versions.
Sometimes though, it seems to me that ratings are just the opposite. For instance, Gone With the Wind is rated G, and I think if it was rated now it would be PG. I guess it just depends.
In this case though, I think it could even get away with being rated PG the way it is.

It sounds like you watch neat things at school! Jane Eyre, P&P...was this college or high school?
I enjoyed reading your opinions. :)

Miss Dashwood,
I'm glad that made you laugh.
Haha, oh dear! That would be the oddest thing I've ever heard of!!

Jessica,
I know, those were strange. And did you notice in the one where Rochester tries to persuade Jane to stay, there was a reflection of Helen in the mirror? (I probably would have recommended it otherwise)
Anyways, that's why I didn't say 'watch all the deleted scenes'...ha
I'm glad you liked it pretty well. haha

Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

Melody,
I watched Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice in high school. There were a couple others that we watched, but I don't remember enough to write reviews on them. We watched the 1992 version of Wuthering Heights (only part of it and it wasn't very good) and a version of Hard Times (which I thought was really boring) for my junior year English class. I'm still upset that we didn't watch all five hours of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice! hehe!

LitLover said...

I can't believe I didn't find you before now! I'm absolutely enamored with your blog. I too am a teenage reader and aspiring authoress with an intense obsession with literature. I agree with your assessments, though I personally find the 2011 to be my favorite. You are an amazing writer. It's always nice to find another teenager who shares my passion. I'd really appreciate it if you returned the visit.

http://fortheloveoflit-litlover.blogspot.com

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

Glad you were able to watch JE 2011. It surely is a very pretty adaptation even though it is so short.

Yes, the whole ouija board and gypsy scene in the 2006 miniseries is rather unnecessary. I think Toby Stephens would have been so funny dressed up as an old gypsy woman, too bad they didn't put that in! These actors don't ring true as Jane and Rochester to me and never have even though most Bronte fans seem to think it's the best adaptation yet. Too bad you didn't make it to the Rivers scenes, I did like the actors who played Sinjon (Andrew Buchan, Jem Hearn from Cranford) and Rosamund Oliver (Georgia King, Pet Meagles from Little Dorrit), they are actually a sweet pair.

I remember my dad once saying that Ciaran Hinds might make a good Mr. Rochester and being so surprised at finding out that he had portrayed him in the 1997 version, and then being so disappointed by this unfaithful adaptation. I was watching the Rivers scenes again recently and was disappointed afresh by Sinjon & Jane!

This 1996 version was my family's favorite for a long time (probably still is). I like it because the spirit is faithful to JE even though the shorten and hurry events a bit.

Yes, the 1973 and 1970 versions aren't really worth watching. Very tedious and the actors are much too old for the parts. I'm surprised I made it through both of them but I'd never watch them again.

I have seen Jane Eyre 1943 a few times, I like old movies so I can appreciate this and the 1941 Pride & Prejudice. It's like classic Hollywood's tribute to great novels. Sweet and romantic but only loosely based on the novels. I'd watch it again probably.

I've never seen the 1934 version and from what you've said I'll stay away from it now. Thanks for the warning!

Wow! I can't believe I've seen all but one of these adaptations, and I'm not even a huge fan! Shows how much I like period dramas I guess. I did like hearing the book read so perhaps I'm just looking for a film that's fairly accurate. Great post! :)

Alexandra said...

Hello, hello! Just saw this. :-) And Jane Eyre being one of my New Favorite Books, I had to comment. :-P

I've only seen two of these...the 2011 and 2006 - and bits and pieces of the Cirian Hinds one. I have to agree on the 2011 one...while the two of them did a good job seperately, Mia and Michael just had no chemisty IMO..and that's kinda crucial for characters famous for being so passionately in love. :-D Plus it was WAY too short, TOO rushed (I was like, um! In love after the first scene? Seriously?) and the end! ACK! Not happy.

I absolutely love the 2006 (minus the content mentioned, of course :-)) version. But seriously. The content was just...silly. Totally out-of-character for Jane. Sigh. But other than that...LOVED it. I smell a comparison review on my blog coming soon...

Melody said...

Alexandra,
I was happy to see you'd commented on my blog, and even happier when you popped up as a new follower! =)

Ugh! I know! I wish the new one could have been the mini-series, because it would have been a lot better had it been longer. Or at least included a couple of the scenes they deleted. (Except the weird ones...) Oh, I didn't like the end either. Who's to say his servant John didn't help him shave, for pity's sake? ;-) And it didn't explain nearly enough! A couple more scenes, and I would have been happy (er). I do like how they paid more attention to details like hair-color, even if it was too short to have the whole story. When the author chuses to describe things, I think the movie-makers should pay heed. ;-)
All in all though, I did like it and it's probably my favorite... sigh. They all have something major wrong with them.

But, at least it makes the book all the more powerful when you do read it. =) I liked the story before that, but when I read the book... wow.

I wish I could have seen the rest of the 2006 version. Part of the content which kept my mom from letting me watch more than the first half was also when Mr. Rochester was telling Jane about his past, and there were "flashbacks".

Anyways. Thank you for commenting! =)

Thomas Watson said...

I think this is very well done for the feature length nature of the film. There are a lot of TRULY AWFUL feature film Period Dramas. In most cases that is due condensing the material.

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