Monday, March 08, 2010

Poor and Plain, Obscure and Little

I just finished re-watching the 2006 BBC version of Jane Eyre and was once again blown away by how perfectly it captures the book. And I would know, as a nerdy teenager I carried my battered, dog-eared copy everywhere. I read it and re-read it until I could dream at night about being in Thornfield Hall. If you have never read it, here is an excellent reader review that touches on Jane's Feminism and Rochester as the ultimate romantic hero. (He definitely had my vote!)

So, in honor of that, I briefly considered listing my favorite Edwards from Literature, but all I could come up with was Rochester, Ferrars, and (recluctantly) Cullen. Instead, I'd like to stick with Jane Eyre and list my top 5 favorite movie versions of Charlotte Bronte's classic. And before you comment, I have yet to see any of the versions from Mexico, Hong Kong, India, or the 1997 one with Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton. Not to say I won't get around to it.

5. 1996. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Starring a practically unknown at the time Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane, a definitely phoning-it-in William Hurt as Rochester, and a teeny Anna Paquin as young Jane.

I liked it when it first came out (in my senior year of high school and at the peak of my Bronte-mania), in fact I had an enormous version of the movie poster on my wall. This movie would have been so much better if not for William Hurt. He dosen't have the edge or the fire that Rochester has. He's Blandy McBlanderson. And I know I'm just nitpicking here, but dammit...Rochester is not a blond guy. Gainsbourg is okay, but to be honest when I went back and rewatched some of the clips she comes off as dry as toast. I'm not saying it's not worth a watch, Elle McPherson makes a cameo as Blanche Ingram, though she spends her scenes looking confused as to what she is doing there. So was I! All in all it's a very decent effort, though it leaves out a lot of the book (which is usually my biggest complaint).

4. 1970. Directed by Delbert Mann.

I don't have much to say about this version other than I've seen it, sorta. I watched it when I was sick with Mono, Thrush, and a whole bunch of other disgusting stuff. I had a 104 degree fever at the time and can't remember anything about it other than the colors were really, really weird (though that was probably just the fever) and the music was very eerie. My future mother-in-law loves it though. I'm not sure if it's still her favorite since the BBC version, if not it's a definite second.

3.1983.. Directed by
Julian Amyes.

This is the one I refer to as "the one with Timothy Dalton". It's good, if a bit (really) sound-stagey. Dalton turns in a solid performance (even if at times he flourishes his words a bit too much. ACTING!). Zelah Clarke plays Jane so understated she's practically on mute through most of the film, with exception of the scene when Rochester proposes. It's been a while since I've seen this version, but I remember watching that scene and thinking "She's Fiesty! Where has she been this whole time?"

2.1944. Directed by Robert Stevenson.

This was the first film adaptation of the book I ever saw, and I guess it's stuck with me quite a bit over the years. Starring Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine (who I always adored), and a very young Elizabeth Taylor as the (spoiler!) doomed Helen Burns. Orson Welles, not surprisingly, was brilliant at capturing Rochester's restless, cynical, and somewhat obsessive side. I thought (and still believe) that Joan Fontaine was way too gorgeous to have ever played a character who is by and large known as plain, but her acting is up to the challenge and she plays the part well. The sets are stark and spooky, and the recreation of the Yorkshire Moors is something to see. This is a dark and beautiful version, even if it is a bit choppy and cut short in places.

1.2006. Directed by Susanna White.

I really can't stop singing the praises of this one. The music is beautiful, the sets are gorgeous, the costuming perfect, the acting superb.
I do have to say (and give credit to the director & actors) this version was quite a bit sexier than the very chaste book. Toby Stephens' Rochester practically smolders his way through the first half of the film. And Ruth Wilson has done the best job of any of her predecessors with Jane's independence, virtue and passion. Both actors are quite a bit hotter than the characters they are playing, but you will never hear me phrase that as a complaint. And MAJOR points for this being the only version that gets the Moor House part of the story right! St. John Rivers is as cool and hard-nosed as he was in the book, yet I found myself liking his character in the movie more than on the page. And I have to give props to the casting director for casting Claudia Coulter as Bertha Mason. If you have seen Wide Sargasso Sea*, (a prequel to Jane Eyre about young Edward Rochester's exploits in Jamaica) you will know that Coulter is almost a dead ringer for Karina Lombard, who plays the Bertha in Sea.

*I just looked up the IMdb page for Wide Sargasso Sea and saw that Rochester is played in that movie by Nathaniel Parker, who I had the hots for as the Dunstan Thorn, a.k.a. the Dad in Stardust. That explains it, I knew I'd seen him nekkid before.

In any case, I've added my favorite clips below. The first one is the scene that takes place after Jane saves Mr. Rochester from the fire that was set in his room. This scene makes me SWOON.


Traxy said...

No way! Nat Parker getting his kit off in WSS? I really must try and get hold of that. *cough* *giggle* No, I'd like to see it regardless of that now that I've read the book. :) I too fancied Dunstan Thorn!

Top 5... hmm... #1 is definitely 2006!

Ah, this blog definitely needs following. *nods, waves and goes to sign up*

Bee said...

Yay! I love The Squee, by the way...the 'And Cravats' is what sold me!

I can't be 100% sure if Nat Parker is Full Monty in WSS, because I was like 19 when I watched it (so this was obviously many years ago) and it was one of those movies that my parents saw and were like "Oh! It's based on a book! That must make it a Family movie!" (Like there is never any sex in BOOKS!!!) So admittedly I only caught the naughty parts with one eye. Is there anything more mortifying that watching a Sex Scene with your parents in the room?

Traxy said...

Haha, no you're quite right. There's something unsettling and uncomfortable watching that sort of thing with your parents! (And WSS seems to not be too far off being a porn flick!)

I remember seeing parts of WSS when it was on TV some years ago, but at the time, I hadn't completed my journey to the Eyre side (eh, better make that the Rochester side) so I'm not sure I paid too much attention to it, more than "it's a costume drama, men in cravats!" (Seriously, that's my favourite piece of clothing on men. Beats ties and bow-ties hands down. Beats having 'em nekkid too, actually.)

*some googling later* Hm, actually, I might've seen the 2006 version. Not sure. But from the sites I came across, I can confirm Parker most definitely went full monty in it. Uh... *rubs eyes* they didn't leave anything to the imagination, so to speak. Crikey.

Glad you enjoy my blog too. :)