Sunday, April 18, 2010

Jane Eyre 1997: Robots, Mustaches and Rupert Penry-Jones!

So I finally got over my wariness of Ciarán Hinds' mustache and watched the 1997 A&E version of Jane Eyre starring Mr. Hinds as Rochester and Samantha Morton as Jane. I did enjoy it, for the most part, and I realize that not every version has the benefit of a good budget the way the 2006 miniseries undoubtedly did. Taking that into account I still get incredibly frustrated when they gloss over the last part of the story (the events that take place after Jane leaves Thornfield). I really don't care all that much about young orphan Jane and Mr. Brocklehurst, etc. I want to dive right in to the juicy Rochester parts! This was my biggest complaint, other than that I found myself pleasantly surprised by this version.

Samantha Morton is a fine actress, and she plays Jane very well, though at times I found her voice a little (no, very) Robotic. Her interpretation of Jane didn't seem to be terribly self-possessed or self-assured the way Jane is. At times it seems like she has "been trampled on". I wish she could have played her with a little more backbone, watching the proposal scene she seemed more terrified of Rochester than anything. That being said, she still was perfectly capable of the material, I just wish she had done a bit more with it. That, and the voice-overs were unnecessary and sometimes confusing.

The green frock coat and the top hat makes me want cereal for some reason...

On the other hand, Ciarán Hinds (who I also love) almost did a little too much with Edward Rochester. He was certainly the crankiest, surliest version of Rochester I've ever seen! Maybe it's the timbre of his voice that gives it that rough edge. Though, oddly enough he was nicer to Adele in this film. In any event, I really came to love this version of Rochester. Hinds played him with a passionate, wild and unapologetic desperation. He might be the closest an actor has come to Brontë's character. I love Toby Stephens and his portrayal will always be first place (unless Michael Fassbender knocks it out of the park) but he did seem to be a gentler and more sensual Rochester than the character from the book. And Hinds deftly handles the very changeable moods of Mr. Rochester. I think if not for his performance this would have been an ultimately forgettable movie.

 The Moor House part of the story, as I mentioned, was very much pared down. It's never mentioned that Jane is related to St. John and Diana (no Mary or Hannah is this one) but at one point they are calling each other "brother" and "sister" out of the blue. Huh? St. John was played by certified dreamboat Rupert Penry-Jones, who you might know as playing a very foxy (though slightly wooden) Captain Wentworth in the BBC's 2007 remake of Jane Austen's Persuasion. All I want to know is why is St. John Rivers suddenly so happy and bubbly? There was none of the religious fire and cold manipulation of the character in this portrayal. To me, it's one of the most important aspects of the story! St. John's "proposal" is bitterly, sharply different from Rochester's, who actually loves Jane.  Reading those scenes in the book, he seems to almost haunt Jane like a ghost in order to bend her to his will. If I could describe the character of St. John in a word, it would be "suffocating". Not so here. Here he's just a cute, affable guy who says "Hey! We both love God! Let's get married and go somewhere really hot!" Despite the cuteness of it's actor, this St. John Rivers did not answer for me.

 And what the hell is up with that hair?!?!

 I had some other minor issues, Gemma Jones is great but she seemed a little more abrupt than Mrs. Fairfax is usually portrayed, and Blance Ingram was kind of Fug. I also thought Thornfield Hall was more bright and cheerful than usual. I do have to applaud them for the great job they did with Bertha, from her mattress-lined room to how large she seemed (she was a large woman in the book).

If you are a Jane Eyre enthusiast like I am, it's certainly worth a watch, if only to laugh at the line "Mrs. Faifax got a letter. Sophie got a letter. Even Pilot got a letter!"

[Edit] Has anyone gotten a chance to read This yet? If you have, what did you think?


Sleep Goblin said...

I just watched this recently! For the most part, I thought it was so-so. I think I gave it 3 stars on Netflix? Anyway, I read Jane Eyre the summer after my sophomore year of high school because we were supposed to read it in class and ran out of time. Yeah, I was that kid in school. But I remember LOVING it, though I haven't read it since then. I really should. At any rate, I think I have like 10 versions of this movie in my queue. 2006 you say? Was that a good one?

Sleep Goblin said...

Never mind! That's already in my queue. And apparently by 10, I meant 3... :P

Bee said...

Oh NO you haven't seen the 2006 BBC miniseries?!? Do not hesitate to watch it immediately! I promise you will love it!

Yeah, this wasn't the best version, but I still liked it better than the William Hurt one.

Traxy said...

@Sleep Goblin: Oh yes, watching '06 is a must! You've really missed something if you haven't seen that one.

@Bee: Loved the review! :) Perhaps what you thought was mechanical was what I thought was the "watching actors act". I do like Hinds as Rochester, even with the 'tache, but I think the best portrayal to date is Stephens, who I think understood the character better than most. Just the expression of pain on his face when the wedding is interrupted! Erm yeah. Aaaaanyway. What did you think of the scene I went squee over btw? (Morning after proposal, he calls her Mrs. Rochester.) :) Ahhhh makes me tingly just thinking about it!

Bee said...

I had to go back and rewatch the wedding scene you were just describing. ::Sigh:: I almost lost it in the scene where he was telling Jane about the first time he saw her "I saw this...magical thing". SWOON.

I agree that Stephens is the BEST portrayal. Love Toby. I found some youtube vids of him in Robin Hood and laughed my head off! I love a Smarmy villain.

I have been trying to watch more Michael Fassbender movies to prepare for JE11 and I have to say I'm looking forward to what he does with it. He's gonna have to beef up some though!

Lindsey Lou said...

I agree 100% regarding the portrayal of St. John. Also, I agree 200% about Rupert Penry-Jones being a dreamboat. Haha.

But I wish you would not have introduced me to Jane Slayr. I am powerless to resist stuff like that!

Bee said...

I hope it's good because I ordered it...I still have Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter sitting on my bookshelf, unread. I pick them up, read a paragraph and giggle, and then put it back on the shelf. Maybe I'll be more determined with Jane!