Friday, April 05, 2013

"Jane Eyre" (1997) -- Initial Thoughts

So, I watched this over a period of three weeks, which is not at all ideal.  I finished the last twenty minutes tonight, and I'm so glad I made a few tiny notes here and there, or I'd have to watch the whole thing over to review it properly.  Not that I'd mind, but I don't really have the time right now.  Obviously, or I'd have watched the whole thing in one swoop the first time, right?

I've been having a bit of a Spring Fling with Ciaran Hinds, in case you haven't noticed that he's popped up several times lately.  I'm also crushing on Ewan McGregor again, and you'll see him mentioned a lot in the next few weeks too, I'm sure.  But anyway, ever since I watched Persuasion a couple months ago, I've been eager to see Ciaran Hinds play Mr. Rochester.  But I've also read a ton of reviews of this version that said it was terrible.  So I approached it kind of apprehensively, fearful that it would butcher my favorite story, and that I'd be disappointed in both Ciaran and the movie.

I needn't have worried.

I'm not saying I love it, mind you -- I think I like it about as well as the 2011 version.  Which means that the 1983 is still my favorite.  But this has a lot of good qualities.  (EDIT:  After thinking about it while falling asleep last night, I've decided I like this one better than the 2011.)

First off, it trims down the first section of the book into a couple of short scenes that show us that young Jane is imaginative, starved for love, intelligent, and possessing a keen sense of right and wrong.  Second, it also trims the third section where Jane is off living with the Riverses -- it even goes so far as to cut one of the Rivers sisters out, and totally removes the facts that Jane is their cousin and that she inherits money from their mutual uncle.  But I'm okay with that, because all those cuts means there is more time to focus on the whole point of this version of the story:  the relationship between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester.

Awww, so happy together!
Ciaran Hinds plays a much angrier Rochester than Michael Fassbender or Timothy Dalton.  He has been wronged by life, he has a chip on his shoulder the size of one of Thornfield's towers, and he does not care a whit what anyone thinks of all that.  He's grumpy and he knows it, and he wants you to know it too.  He growls and he rants and he glares and... hot diggetty dog, he is attractive while he does all that!  Even despite his dreadful mustache and the silliest sideburns I've seen in many years, and some really unruly hair.  He's all intensity and fire and barely simmering desire... I need to stop now before my prose turns positively purple here.

Oh, but I didn't mention that he sings!  Yes, yes, he does!  Go here to hear him. Since Ciaran sang his own stuff in The Phantom of the Opera (2004), I'm fairly sure he does here too.

For this Mr. Rochester, every day is a bad hair day.
As for Samantha Morton as Jane Eyre, she's a little prettier than I'm used to, but she totally pulls off the mixture of youth, determination, and sensibleness that Jane requires, so I don't mind that she's not very plain. She might be almost a little too spunky, as there are times when I almost expect her to put up her dukes and go a couple rounds with Rochester.  But she tempers the spunk with a wide-eyed naivete that was sweet and believable.
Rochester looks positively batty here, but Jane looks lovely.
I've read that some people are not fond at all of the proposal scene in this version, especially the kiss, as it's, well, it's awkward.  It's not all fanfares and sunsets and perfectly placed lips.  But do you remember your first kiss?  I remember mine.  It was horrible.  It made this look like high art.  This is Jane Eyre's first kiss, though it's not Rochester's and he does get some points deducted for not taking over and showing her how it's done.  But over all, I didn't hate it, and it certainly didn't make me hate the whole production.

Now, I need to note that this screenplay does not adhere to the dialog from the book.  It paraphrases.  It rephrases.  It uses bits here and there when they work for these portrayals, and throws out what doesn't. I think my favorite example of this is when Jane refuses to live a lie with Rochester.  She says, "You are a married man."  He shouts back, "But I'm still ME!"  (This Rochester shouts a lot.  A lot.)  Her words are pretty close to the book, his aren't even remotely.  But they work ever so well.  For me, that is :-)

So anyway, I guess the one thing I really didn't like about this version is that they totally cut out the idea of religion.  Any time she brought up morality, he dismissed it as "Brocklehurst claptrap."  Jane was left, then, with only her instincts to guide her actions, much less defend her against Rochester's request that she live with him as his pretend wife once the wedding option is out.  This made her seem contrary and a little bit mean, which is all wrong.

Okay, so... there are no good screencaps on the internet from this.  None.  And I watched it on YouTube, so yeah... I have no even decent screencaps from it either.  Sorry!  I did find this one picture that gives you a good idea of the sorts of clothes they wear.  Rochester generally looks wealthy and manly, and Jane wears a lot of plain grey dresses.

Is this version family-friendly?  Pretty much.  There's one suggestive moment involving Bertha, and Jane tells Rochester she will not share his bed, which is a bit more direct than some versions get.  So it's not 100% squeaky clean.

I kind of thought their first kid was a boy, but it doesn't really matter.  Happy ending!


  1. Mmm, watched this version a few months back. I think I reviewed it too...meant to, at any rate. :) I just got back to watching "Ivanhoe" tonight -- that has Ciaran Hinds in it, along with a bunch of other actors (Christopher Lee!) who I recognize from random movies. :) Good review!

    1. I tried to access your review, and my browser wouldn't load the page because "Content from, a known malware distributor, has been inserted into this web page. Visiting this page now is very likely to infect your computer with malware." So you might want to look into that.

      Anyway, my friend DKoren loves that version of Ivanhoe too! It's on my list of movies I want to watch for the Period Drama Challenge, as well as the 2006 version of Jane Eyre and 11 other movies, hee. We'll see what all I get to! But if I don't watch them before the challenge is over, I'll watch them after :-)

  2. Hmm.....have you seen the old black and white version of Jane Eyre with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. I love that one. And I do enjoy the 2011 one

    However, I have never seen this one, so I should ;-)

    1. Nope, still haven't seen that one. I did find it online somewhere, but haven't watched it yet. But I looooooooove Welles' voice, so would like to see him take on the role. I think I've heard him in a radio version, though.

  3. I think I've mentioned to you before that Jane Eyre isn't my favorite story. But I have watched a few versions, this one included. YES, he does shout a lot doesn't he? :D

    And it's been a while since I watched it, but I seem to remember there were a few sweet scenes that I watched again several times (which is what I do if I really like a scene. Yes, it's kind of silly. :). I think there was one scene in particular that took place in the library or a quiet little room somewhere anyway, that I enjoyed. And I did like Hinds as Rochester. I surprised myself feeling that way, but I do! :)

    1. Oh, I will rewatch good scenes multiple times too. Not silly at all!

      I think my favorite scene in this version was one they totally made up, where Rochester takes Jane to Millcote to buy wedding clothes and they run into Miss Ingram.

  4. Okay I just finished watching this! And you told me to comment so here I go, even though I don't think you'll like my opinion of the film! :)

    Okay, sorry, but I don't like Hinds... that is, I don't find him attractive at all. Now I know Rochester's not supposed to be attractive, so, in that case, for me, good casting! However, I really disliked the way he spoke. Way too much yelling and strange blunt unnatural voice. It seemed really forced and over the top. Now I remember him in Persuasion, and I didn't think he was that bad in that film. For some reason his voice just didn't mesh with this role for me. There were a couple of moments that were alright, but most of it just made me cringe. Even his face... I dunno, the expressions were not quite up to par.

    I thought Morton was an excellent Jane! One of the best I've seen really. Looks wise I thought she was plain, but not ugly, looked prettier in some scenes, like when she was happy and smiling... all in keeping with the descriptions in the book to me.

    Obviously any feature length film is going to truncate the story... For the 1996 version (William Hurt) and the 2011 version I felt like they were kind of train wrecks in that department... but this version did pretty well in cutting things out. It didn't feel choppy, I think the voice over narration was actually really helpful in this respect! It pulled elements of the story together and made things make sense.

    So yeah, all in all I didn't like this movie and couldn't wait 'til it was over! Mainly because I didn't like Hinds at all as Rochester.

    So weird how we can watch the same thing and feel so polar opposite about one character!

    1. Lol -- after weathering the maelstrom of differing opinions about the '05 P&P, I could hardly be upset that you didn't like this as well as I do. After all, you quite liked Morton as Jane, and the screenplay. You just didn't like Ciaran Hinds as Rochester, and for well-thought-out reasons -- I agree that his voice is more alluring in Persuasion -- he speaks much higher when he's angry, and he's angry a lot in this, sand I missed his deeper, more resonant pitches too. Some of my favorite scenes in this are my favorites because he's talking quietly and with a low, deep voice.

      I never used to find Hinds attractive either, but... he's growing on me.

    2. :)

      I can't wait to hear what you think of the 2006 version. Have you seen Toby Stephens (who plays Mr. Rochester) in anything else? Twelfth Night or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall perhaps!?

    3. Looked Toby Stephens up on just now, and all I've seen him in are Die Another Day (which I don't really remember anything about) and Sharpe's Challenge (but I don't recall his character), so basically, no, I haven't really seen him in anything that I remember him from.

  5. I have seen so far only one version of Jane Eyre and it is the one with Orson Welles. I enjoyed it very much. I had to read the book when I was in school and I loved it. I need to catch up on all the movie versions of this book.

    1. And I haven't seen that one yet! One day. Why is there never enough time???

    2. Hey, Xenia -- how come I can't comment on the latest post on your blog? I'm dying to dish about Hugh Jackman, but there's no comment box!!!

  6. I haven't seen this one yet, but I've been meaning to catch up on that!

    Also, I am so thrilled by the fact that you have a tag for "Byronic heroes." BLOG WIN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

    1. Where would I be without Byronic Heroes? I'd be sad and lonely (like them, lol). But thank you :-)


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