After the disappointment with the 1996 movie adaptation of Jane Eyre, this 1983 BBC Mini-Series (Netflix link) was a breath of fresh air for me. It follows the story of Jane Eyre as it was written by Charlotte Bronte almost perfectly. The only downside for a casual viewer is the length: 11 episodes of around 30 minutes each, (5 1/2 hours), but for the enthusiast like me, that makes it all the better!
I feel like whoever made this production happen really loved Jane Eyre just as it was, as I do. They didn’t change much, if anything about the actual events, or even the dialogue, save for some major editing between the proposal and the wedding ceremony (for those of you who haven’t read my Jane Eyre posts, I’m sorry, I do not edit myself – they’re full of spoilers!). All in all, watching these episodes follows the book very closely, so for those of you who just don’t have the time to read it, this may be a good alternative for you. For that reason I like that it’s only told in episodes – watch the first few, and if you like them and your interest is peaked, you may find the motivation to get through the novel. I do understand the hesitation at reading such a book as Jane Eyre – I really do, I hesitated myself for 6 years!
I was a little bit skeptical about this version when I began – I’d seen some clips on youtube of some of the pivotal scenes from this version, and I wasn’t convinced they really captured the ‘magic’ of the moments, but it was the only other selection on Netflix and I figured it had to be better than the last one! Watched from beginning to end, I was really happy with this rendition. The actors were great – Zelah Clarke as Jane (Sian Pattenden as young Jane), Timothy Dalton as Rochester, Jean Harvey as Mrs. Fairfax, Blance Youinou as Adele, and Andrew Bicknell as St. John Rivers. One thing to note though, Jane and Rochester are supposed to be plain, if not ugly, and the actors who portrayed them are perhaps the two most beautiful people on Earth::
It didn’t bother me that they were beautiful, but I think some people take that seriously. To me, it’s not about if the characters of a movie look and sound exactly as the characters are supposed to sound as they are written – to me, what is important in Jane Eyre is that Jane and Rochester match – they are equals, and I believe this series accomplishes that.
I love the costumes in this version much better than the 1996 version as well – look at that bonnet! I want one! Thornfield Hall was splendid, as was the school at Lowood. They filmed in beautiful countryside, just as I imagined it all as I read. The one house that was drastically different than I’d imagined was Diana & Mary’s (I’m drawing a blank on the name!) – in the book it’s quite a nice house – not as grand as Rochester’s, but up-scale, but all we really see of it is a very small very rustic kitchen, a simple bedroom, and a modestly adorned study. All in all, very realistic styling throughout.
While the fundamentals of this series are spot on…I find that it still didn’t capture the tone of the book for me. This book just feels so…personal to me. Watching it as a film so exactly was strange, because Rochester was a little too stern and never really softened up as he does in the book, and Jane was just a little bit too quiet…too soft, and if nothing else, after Rochester proposes they almost switch places (in the novel). Jane becomes the grounding foundation of the couple, and Rochester’s head goes into the clouds. Because that entire section was omitted, I believe this series really lost a big part of the dynamic between these two characters. Instead, someone who does not know the story probably won’t understand the complicated love between the two; they’ll see that it exists of course, but they won’t understand it, not completely.
I do recommend watching this series, definitely. Overall, it was a great production.
Thanks for reading, everyone!