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Kimberley 2nd Oct 2006 19:22

Jane Eyre - BBC 2007
Excuse me if this should be in another thread, but I've seen a couple of references to the new production of Jane Eyre elsewhere on palimpsest and I know I'm not the only one watching it. A bit of disappointment, I think I detected from Col... but I'm quite enjoying it. I'm more an Austen-ite than a Bronte fan, I have to admit, but I'm quite enjoying this Jane. Last night, a couple of times she almost seemed flirty. Before, I've always wondered what Rochester could possibly see in her, she's always come across as such a goody two shoes (give me Elizabeth Bennet's sharp comebacks to Lady Catherine de Burgh an day) but last night, I actually saw a spark.

I thought I'd see if anyone else here is enjoying it?

amner 2nd Oct 2006 19:33

Re: Jane Eyre ... new BBC adaptation
TV stuff should be in Other Reviews, so have moved it.

Kimberley 2nd Oct 2006 19:36

Re: Jane Eyre ... new BBC adaptation
thanks, amner, I had a feeling it needed to go somewhere!

Colyngbourne 2nd Oct 2006 23:26

Re: Jane Eyre ... new BBC adaptation
I'm off to bed now but I do have some disappointment with the new Jane Eyre (wot, no Helen Burns (apart from about 30 seconds)? no Rochester dressed as a gypsy? no deep sense of the formation of her character or the long conversations with Rochester prior to the house party?). I'll answer more fully tomorrow morning.

Colyngbourne 3rd Oct 2006 9:39

Re: Jane Eyre ... new BBC adaptation
I've spent a good five hours in company with Miss Eyre the last couple of days (watching the entire 1983 series and the second episode of 2006's on Sunday), and I'm still thinking that the 2006 dramatisation is lacking in something.

I watched the first episode with only the haziest recollection of 1983's Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke in my head, but could still recall just how much time was spent back then to Jane's early years - a firm establishing of the relationship between the Reeds and herself, and the awfulness of Lowood Institute. In this period Jane's character becomes formed by her experiences and also by the deep spiritual understanding she has with Helen Burns. From her she learns forbearance which is tempered by her own passionate inner nature and honesty. She learns the value of her life also and that of one day forgiving Mrs Reed. This part takes up 1/5th of the book. All of this will be important as to her decisions later on - to visit Gateshead again and forgive a dying woman who still despises her; to instruct Rochester on how to live; to choose to leave him and also to come so close to accepting St. John Rivers.

This was handled very poorly in the 2006 JE - skimmed over with such speed that it was over in just 10 minutes or so: Helen Burns was no sooner introduced than expiring in some strange room, more like a sacrificial altar than the room of Miss Temple, the kindly schoolteacher. (In fact Miss Temple did not feature at all). The drama seemed to keen to speed through to what they know the avid viewer is waiting for - the romance itself - as if all else is side-story, whereas it is (very appositely for my current reading) more an observed evolution of what has gone before. It is only when Jane comes to Thornfield on her own that she can assert her character to the forming of others', and actually reveal the depth of her own morality: this takes place in several long conversations with Mr Rochester (which are hard to read aloud but are the foundation blocks of their relationship thereafter).

All of the above is missing from the 2006 version. In the first episode Toby Stephens made ad admirable Rochester, very gruff and snarky, and although Adele was perhaps a little too old, her part was played to its essence. But we were galloping, galloping all the time through the plot. (Someone can correct me if they remember this - did Mr Rochester say 'Christ!' when tumbled from his horse in this version? In 1983 he says 'Damnation!' which is a very different and more acceptable profanity.)

Episode Two brought Rochester and Jane into a near clinch after the bedhangings caught fire - too much, too soon again. This is a 'slow burn' romance (not as slow as Harry and Ruth in Spooks though!). From the text I don't see Jane sitting up in bed like a modern teenager, swearing not to wash the hand that 'he' touched. She has no sudden thoughts of that possibility as yet.

During the second episode Toby Stephens turned into a Hugh-Grant-o-like - the hair, the voice, the mannerisms - something that is not Rochester anyway. The house party - lots of time was spent on views of the ladies parading down the corridor, riding in over the hill, entirely made-up scenes talking of madness and enfants sauvages, and using a ouija board (horrifying and unnecessary). What is one of the best and most telling scenes in this part of the story was lessened by Rochester not dressing up himself but hiding behind a screen like an eavesdropper or tell-tale (how could he have directed exactly what questions to ask Jane?) More directly textual would have been the charades scene where Rochester and Blanche depict 'bridewell' - each constituent part and the whole making up the sorry tale of Rochester's hidden wife and his own imprisonment.

After Bertha bites Mason, Jane is taken to the tower where she resides - this is meant to be a room off a corridor Jane has passed through various times: in the book she has seen Grace Poole enter the door on occasions; but in this version, Jane looks to have never gone up the creepy spiral staircase to the room. In episode 1 we were given the dimwit's clue of Jane spotting a red scarf fluttering from an unknown window - which doesn't happen in the book either.

The thing is - both this and the 1983 version last four hours exactly. What is different is the proportion given to different scenes - the earlier version spent much time on conversation between Jane and Mrs Reed, Jane and Rochester, on things that evoked what Jane's inner life was. Partly this was helped by an occasional (but not intrusive) voice-over - something which is unfashionable these days perhaps, but which would have deepened our sympathy and awareness of Jane's character. What we get in 2006 we have to surmise from the sometimes cliched short-hand the director uses to signal distress or uncertainty. Dalton's Rochester was suitably intense in a way Stephens is not (well not yet, anyway - I hope for better things next week). (Also unduplicable in 2006 is the height difference between Jane and Rochester - Jane was a determined tiny fey thing next to Rochester's tall, dark and brooding. Those are the cliches that make sense here.)

I don't mind Ruth Wilson as Jane but I cannot see her character beneath - that moral authority with which Rochester seeks to redeem himself.

amner 3rd Oct 2006 16:55

Re: Jane Eyre ... new BBC adaptation
Do you know something? I've never read Jane Eyre.

Colyngbourne 3rd Oct 2006 17:00

Re: Jane Eyre ... new BBC adaptation
Oh go on, it's very good.

Kimberley 3rd Oct 2006 19:16

Re: Jane Eyre ... new BBC adaptation
Col, thanks for that. I probably do have to disagree with you though. I'm definitely not a Bronte purist... I've sometimes fantasised about being given a red pen and an editor's licence to get stuck right into those early scenes, and so in watching the series, I was pretty relieved to get through all the backstory with just enough images (the coffins, for instance) to show us what her life had been like, as quickly as possible. And I don't like voice-overs, to me they're the mark of screen-writers not having quite come to terms with the fact that they're dealing with a visual medium rather than a verbal one, which is what I think they were struggling with in the device of the red scarf (although I don't think this was completely successful!), sometimes things do need to be added to a story when it's being translated from one medium to another, just as at other times they need to be taken away. The ouija board was like this -- I'm not sure why you disliked this scene so much? They were very popular parlour games of this period, and it was one way the production could show that Rochester knews what Blanche is really like, and stood in for that game of charades in the book where the solution was something like "bride".

I have to get on to dinner :roll: ... just thought I'd post this quickly first but I might need to get back to it later.

Colyngbourne 3rd Oct 2006 19:30

Re: Jane Eyre ... new BBC adaptation
I guess I object to the ouija board because I don't think they were in common use in English drawing rooms in the period when Charlotte Bronte was writing (admittedly they were popularised pretty soon afterwards) - Mr Rochester would not have had such a thing in his house. At that period they would have been shockingly too much "of the occult" - even the notion of having fortunes told by an itinerant gypsy is rather a shocking one for the house party to indulge in - that is why the gypsy scene works. The oiuja board was a step too far.

I prefer the charade game - Blanche as a bride, and as Rebecca by the well, and Rochester, mad and in chains, as 'bridewell'. At this point Rochester isn't meant to be signalling to Blanche that he doesn't have intentions towards her - even just before his proposal to Jane, Jane believes him still to be pursuing Blanche. He has no need at this point to signal his disdain for Blanche by spelling out 'heartless'.

Lucoid 4th Oct 2006 14:37

Re: Jane Eyre ... new BBC adaptation
Just a quick note as I've got to rush back to my desk - I've read Jane Eyre only once or twice and never quite got to grips with it (rather than never understanding what Rochester sees in Jane, I couldn't fathom why Jane would want to be with such a rude man as Rochester), but looked forward to this adaptation as I do that of any classic. For me, this series is opening up the book, and inspiring me to read it again, which no doubt I will once I've got through the bloody Moonstone.

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