I was so excited when I saw that they were remaking Jane Eyre (yet again). After I read this book I was anxious to see the movie version of it but there was only a miniseries from the 80’s that was on Netflix Streaming and it was no good. When I saw the preview for the 2011 release I was very excited and hoping that it would get the wonderful update that was Pride and Prejudice. The preview also looked dark and brooding which made me curious but a little nervous at the same time. The book has such a light air about it because it is told from Jane’s perspective and she is ever the optimist. But dark and tragic things do happen in the story so going this new direction could be very interesting.
Before the new version came out on dvd I found a 1996 version on instant streaming. I decided it might be interesting to do a little comparison. This movie stars William Hurt as Rochester and Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane. Let’s see…there was nothing wrong with this adaptation. In fact, most things were quite accurate and cleverly melded to make the movie work. It’s just….. there wasn’t anything great about this movie either. Personally, I might be really picky about my characters but, I felt that Jane was much too stoic. She wasn’t simple she was bland while Rochester was just plain grumpy. Rochester is supposed to be brooding. In the book he has this great sense of mystery and you can almost feel his pain and depression because it is seeping out of him. Dealing with what he thinks is his misfortune in life makes him on edge, and short but not a grumpy old man. There is a difference. So, it was ok, but nothing special. In fact, if there weren’t other Jane options out there it would pass as a sufficient movie.
Well the timing of all of this worked out perfectly because after I watched the streaming version I received the Master Theater version in the mail from my queue. The advantage that this miniseries has over any movie is that it has time to actually develop the characters. There is so much to accomplish from this book that any movie has to move at a rapid pace so that it will all make sense; a miniseries doesn’t have to do that. Purely having time is a huge advantage. Similar to the previous movie it is straightforward in it’s storytelling (although I did like how they dealt with some of Jane’s childhood as flashbacks) They actually took the time to make this a beautiful movie. The scenery is so pretty, the score is good, and thankfully the acting is superb. This miniseries really tried to capture who I knew as Jane and Rochester. Jane is simple, humble, and innocent and that is why Rochester loves her. But Jane is also self assured and confident which I felt was lacking in other Janes. She doesn’t compromise herself while being unassuming at the same time. Rochester is melancholy and mysterious but has moments where he sees the hope of a new life. Their interactions seem genuine and since you have time to witness their conversations you can see how they fall in love. You get to see them find hope in each other and that is what you love about this story.
The miniseries also has time to set up the story. So much of this story is a mystery. I remember slamming my book down in frustration while reading it because there are so many strange and mysterious things happening in Thornfeild Hall. They capture that sense of mystery and frustration very well. The second half of the 4 hour miniseries definitely takes more liberties for the sake of telling the story but Mr Rivers was dead on and that made me love Jane’s logic and good sense even more.
It all worked and this is such a good adaptation. You know a movie has accomplished something amazing when it makes you want to read the novel again. They paid attention to the details and got the mood right. They had lighthearted moments and gut wrenching heartbreak and you felt all of it because they had time to set it all up. In truth, this is the Jane Erye to see. I am still drooling over Mr. Rochester.
Finally, that bring us to the 2011 update. Let me start off by saying that the cinematography and film making of this version are astounding. It is beautiful. When Jane is traveling through the moors you sense the great vastness that conveys the emptiness of heartbreak. There are so many silhouettes and money shots with the golden hour lighting. The film making is what this movie has going for it. It was directed by the same director as Sin Nombre, which I reviewed last week.
The filmmakers tried to tell the story in a new way. They pulled the, what I call “JJ Abrams” where they start with a crucial point far into the story that hooks you in. Then they had flashbacks as a storytelling device. At first I was impressed and hopeful. This might be a whole new Jane Erye. The young Jane is amazing. In this version Jane definitely has the most reason to beat the crap out of John Reed than in any other movie because his smack to Jane’s head was so realistic is made me gasp. But, then you meet the real Jane. In this version she is played by Mia Wasikowska who I didn’t really like in the new Alice in Wonderland. Alice is suppose to be filled with wonder and enthusiasm that intrigues her curiousity but Mia played her with a sluggish annoyance. That was how she played Jane as well. Mia’s Jane always seemed on the verge of tears and yet no emotion came through. She got Jane all wrong. Where was the innocence, the unassuming lack of judgment, the heart of Jane? Similarly I didn’t like the “peed in his porridge” performance of Rochester by Micheal Fassbender. I didn’t believe the love story. In fact I was watching it with my husband and half way through I asked if he believed they were in love and he said “Are they supposed to be?” My point exactly.
I wanted to like this movie, I really did. Sadly though, it didn’t make the mark for me.