My older sister and I have just finished watching BBC One’s Jane Eyre. The novel by Charlotte Brontë has always been one of my favorites, and Rochester and Jane’s story has always reduced me to tears whenever I go back to the book. I was excited when I found out BBC had done a miniseries for it — I adored BBC’s six-part Pride and Prejudice, and to date, I have only been able to watch one other adaptation of Jane Eyre — 1996’s Jane Eyre starring William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg (which was alright, but rather lacking).
So I looked forward to this miniseries rather avidly. Ruth Wilson, while not pretty, seemed to be a bit more “colorful” than how I’d always envisioned Jane (strong brows, and overall a vibrant face); and Toby Stephens was bordering on pretty, which definitely wasn’t Rochester! But hey, it was BBC, I was sure it was going to be alright.
And it was, overall. The start was a little rocky — I couldn’t decide whether or not it was too slow or too rushed. Looking back at it, I think it was just right — it captured the feel and the mood of the book rather well. Like the flurry of activity and bright and vibrant scenes that’s in Pride and Prejudice — which fit the tone of the book — with Jane Eyre you have an a melancholy, reflective, and rather morose tone.
Ruth Wilson was fabulous, in my opinion — she was not plain, but she fit the part rather well and I could really see the passion just underneath Jane’s skin. She captured the character really well. I’d always thought Charlotte Gainsbourg looked the part the most, but she was a bit too… un-passionate, somehow. Ruth Wilson, now — she was all emotions and feelings held in check.
While Toby Stephens was a bit too rude at the start, and (in my opinion) not brooding enough, he also did well — he’s a very convincing Rochester. It is rather nice to see a laughing Rochester alternating with his dark moods, it gives you the feeling that that person is just underneath, wanting to be out, wanting the light. Like as if he was really rather boyish at heart, but he’s had so much pain and disappointment that it’s been buried, and that his life has been on hold for the longest time.
And oh, I loved St. John. He is quite pretty, and you can see a lot of the repression going on. I suppose this is the one time where I felt like St. John is such a waste. I never really cared much for him before, but after watching the fourth (and last) episode I felt sad that he was just too severe.
I love the scenes, and I love the acting. Everything was rich and passionate. The script was… alright, I suppose. But that’s the most I can give it. I did not care much for it, because I feel like every phrase I’d been wanting to hear has not been said. I can understand rephrasing it to be much more understandable and relevant, but I felt sad at some of the minor things, like changing some phrases, some words, and whole dialogs. (It is weird, I know, but I felt absolutely jarred when Jane said “Do you think I am a machine?” as opposed to “Do you think I am an automaton?”) Where did their absolutely cute conversation about St. John and Rochester not feeling “worthy” enough to ask Jane to marry him because of his deformities go? I know it was there, but that whole scene was different. I didn’t like how that scene went, quite frankly, like the rather different scene where Rochester is trying to get Jane to stay. It was very sensual though, and if you’re taking the miniseries by itself, it’s a good scene.
In any case, thankfully I’m not too much of a purist, and I did enjoy the adaptation — I’d watch this again, definitely. It’s definitely a must-see, whether or not you’re a Jane Eyre fan. Quite well done!
(In case anyone’s wondering, I’ve also decided that I’m going to also write book reviews or adaptation reviews here. I am obviously not a real critic, so all my “reviews” are mostly personal takes on the book/adaptation.)