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Posts Tagged ‘Thornfield Hall’

What is about a story that makes it a classic? And what is it about Jane Eyre, in particular, that has helped it stand the test of time, and inspire so many theater productions, film adaptations, and spin-offs? I know what I love about it–Jane’s character, for starters. She’s so mistreated, yet stays true to herself and her beliefs, even in the most tragic of circumstances, and is rewarded so wonderfully in the end. Then there’s Jane’s time both at Thornfield Hall and with the Rivers family, with such beautiful surroundings, and time for reading, painting, and longs walks. But let’s not forget the excitement of the gothic influence on the story, and the less-than-serene moments that put us on edge. But what do YOU love about Jane Eyre? And which of the following color adaptations is your favorite?

Jane Eyre 1970 – Susannah York & George C. Scott (1 hr 50 min)

This adaptation brings us our only blonde Jane! The actress who plays the young Jane did an excellent job. And I like the spirit Susannah York brings to grown-up Jane, despite the 70’s vibe of her appearance (Let’s call her Big Hair Jane), and the fact she looks closer to 28 than 18. Rochester, too, looks much older than his supposed 38 years. But he also brings passion and emotion to the role that make it come to life (though with a bit more growling than necessary). We get the scene where Jane collapses on the moors, but don’t see St. John (pronounced “Sinjin”) Rivers carrying her home (I like that scene). St. John himself speaks in an aloof, cold manner, and something about him unsettles me, but I like the scenes with his sisters. Some of the scenery around the Rivers’ home and Thornfield Hall is beautiful, though the film quality isn’t great. The colors are too saturated in some scenes and too dark in others. BUT a big plus for this version is the music score by John Williams, who is known for composing the scores for Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, E.T., and others. Though this is the earliest color version I know of, I enjoyed it more than some of the later adaptations.


Jane Eyre 1973 – Sorcha Cusack & Michael Jayston (4 hr 35 min)

This version stars Sorcha Cusack, who you might recognize as housekeeper Mrs. McCarthy from the Father Brown detective series! She has a very cute, expressive face, which shows a lot of what Jane was feeling inside, and I thought she did very well with the part. I had a harder time warming up to Michael Jayston as Rochester (is that eyeshadow he’s wearing?!), who speaks in a very clipped, upper-class sounding voice, but that could just be me. The cinematography leaves something to be desired, the only music is at the beginning and end of each episode, and the many voiceovers take away from the acting. BUT it is a much more faithful version, and includes a lot more exact dialogue and details from the book than other adaptations, which is always fun to see on screen. And with over FOUR hours of watching time, it’s the perfect version if you’re bedridden or need company when you have a big project to work on!


Jane Eyre 1983 – Zilah Clarke & Timothy Dalton (3 hr 59 min)

While watching this adaptation I couldn’t forget that this Mr. Rochester went on to be a future James Bond! Timothy Dalton does superbly with this part–dark and brooding and full of emotion. And Zilah Clarke is perfect as Jane–small and doll-like but with fierce inner passion and strength. St. John Rivers stood out to me in this version–he looks precisely as I pictured him from the description in the book, with his “Grecian profile,” although the actor portrays the character as a cold, judgmental religious fanatic without any love for the people he would help with his missionary work. With its longer length, you get a lot more details, scenes, and characters from the novel than the shorter versions–such as Jane’s wanderings through both town and countryside before finally collapsing on the moor (can you tell I like this scene?). In fact, this version is probably truest to the book. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d say give it a try!


Jane Eyre 1996 – Charlotte Gainsbourg & William Hurt (1 hr 56 mins)

Young Jane (Anna Paquin) and housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax (Jane Plowright, Tea with Mussolini, Enchanted April) are the real stars of this adaptation. Although he’s not on screen, Italian director Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo and Juliet 1968, Tea with Mussolini) brings another star to the film. While I found some of the other Mr. Rochesters too blustery and angry, William Hurt’s take on the character seems too placid and uninteresting. Charlotte Gainsbourg did well as Jane (although she’s too tall!), but would have been better opposite another male lead. The music and scenery are an improvement from previous versions, as is Jane’s attire. With its shorter length, many scenes from the novel are missing, as expected. But the plot also veers off completely at times, such as Jane first meeting St. John Rivers at Gateshead when she goes to see her dying aunt, instead of him discovering her on the moors. And as soon as Jane leaves after discovering Mr. Rochester is married, Thornfield is already on fire! Overall, most of the story is captured in the adaptation. But with many details that add depth and breadth to the story missing, and with the mis-portrayal of Mr. Rochester, the film is not as good as it might have been.


Jane Eyre 1997 – Ciaran Hinds & Samantha Morton (1 hr 48 mins)

This was the first version of Jane Eyre I ever saw (anyone else?) Samantha Morton has the right “Jane-ish” look, and Ciaran Hinds fits the Rochester profile, too. But I found her a bit too mechanical at times, while Hinds comes across as too shouty and angry (as he is in a lot of roles), and I couldn’t help but find it hard to believe that Jane would actually fall in love with him. This is the first version where St. John Rivers, played by Rupert Penry-Jones, seems like a real contestant for Jane’s love (we DO get the wonderful scene where he finds Jane on moors and carries her home–Love!). And if you didn’t know, both Penry-Jones and Hinds play Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen’s Persuasion in the 2007 and 1995 versions, respectively. So I suppose Jane had a choice between Wentworth and Wentworth! I liked Gemma Jones as Mrs. Fairfax, but found the girl who played Adele too old for the part. Also, because of time constraints, this version left out a lot. But it’s still worth watching, even if just for comparison, for all the familiar faces, and because there’s always something to like about a version of Jane Eyre!


Jane Eyre 2006 – Ruth Wilson & Toby Stevens (3 hr 50 mins)

Cinematography had come along way by the time this mini-series was made, which alone makes it a more enjoyable watch. There are dreams, flashbacks, hallucinations, and creative camera-angles. The music score is good, and the scenery and settings are stunning. But I also think that both Ruth Wilson and Toby Stevens brought so much to their roles. Wilson both looks the part of Jane, and brings Jane’s uncertainty, humility, and passion to life. Stevens is a wonderful mixture of brooding, fear, and playfulness, and it’s easy to see what draws Jane to him. I loved the conversations between them, in which they discuss their pasts, or issues of morality, and you can sense their growing attachment to each other. Georgie Henley (from the Narnia films) looked just the part as Wilson’s younger Jane self, and I really liked Lorraine Ashbourne’s portrayal of Mrs. Fairfax. We have the scene where Jane gets lost on the moors (yay!), and a good portrayal of St. John, although he didn’t quite look the part. I appreciated how this version had the time to portray many of the details of Jane’s inheritance and discovery of her relationship with the Rivers. I also think the ending of this adaptation is the very best! But if you want a more accurate representation of the book, you might not like that this version adapted some of the dialogue for modern ears, and took creative licenses in telling the tale.


Jane Eyre 2011 – Mia Wasikowska & Michael Fassbender (2 hrs)

This adaptation boasts more beautiful music, cinematography, costumes, and settings. But similar to the 2019 adaptation of Little Women, the film starts later in the story, which can be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the book. This version begins with Jane running away from Thornfield Hall (a gorgeously filmed scene), and then moves back and forth between the past and the present to tell the story. Mia Wasikowska looks just the part of the reserved Jane, and you can sense the fire behind her eyes. But I would have liked to see more of that passion escape, especially during certain scenes. We only get glimpses of smiles and few real tears. In parts, she seems plain depressed. I would have loved to see real laughter, or the occasional raised voice, and all those emotions we know are trapped inside–especially during the proposal scene. Likewise, though Fassbender shows plenty of moodiness and pent-up frustration, we don’t see much of a playful, teasing side, or any lighter interactions between him and Jane. Judy Dench (A Room with a View, Ladies in Lavender) does, of course, steal our attention when she’s on screen as Mrs. Fairfax. But Jamie Bell (Nicholas Nickleby), although he’s a talented actor, didn’t quite make a believable St. John, in my opinion. Going back to Jane and Rochester, the natural chemistry between them wasn’t what it could have been. But this beautiful film is definitely worth watching, if you’re a Jane fan or not.


SO . . . which of these Jane Eyre adaptations is YOUR favorite? Have you seen them all? If not, which one above will you be running to watch next? I’d love to hear!

Avonlea x

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