Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Jane Eyre (1983)

Box Art
And continuing on my quest to watch 12 - 15 period dramas for the Period Drama Challenge, I present to you my review for Jane Eyre (1983). Up to this point, I had seen two versions of Jane Eyre all the way through and clips from various other versions (this one included). The Jane Eyres I have seen up to this point weren't as accurate to the original story as it could have been, but I had heard good things about this version around the period drama blog world (and the clips I had seen of it reinforced the point). I had seen that this version on Netflix for a while, and I finally watched it over a week.

Young Jane Eyre, an orphan, lives with her rich but cruel Aunt, Mrs. Reed and her cousins at Gateshead Hall until Mrs. Reed sends her away to Lowood School to be educated and be rid of her. Ten years after receiving an education and without connections, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall to young Adele Varens, the ward of Thornfield's master, Mr. Edward Rochester. Thornfield itself holds many secrets and Mr. Rochester is very mysterious and strange, but Jane eventually falls in love with him.

There weren't too many cast members that I recognized from other period dramas in this version of Jane Eyre, but here are some that you may recognize from other period dramas:
Actor/ActressCharacterAlso Seen In
Zelah ClarkeJane EyrePoldark (1975) as Woman in Coach (Pilot episode)
Timothy DaltonMr. RochesterWuthering Heights (1970) as Heathcliff
Judy CornwellAunt ReedPersuasion (1995) as Mrs. Musgrove, Keeping Up Appearances as Daisy (not a period drama)

One of the big pluses about this miniseries is the episode length. Since each episode is only a half hour long, it's very easy to watch this miniseries quickly. Since I've been very busy as of late, this was great because I didn't have to devote a whole hour to watching unless I had the time to watch an episodes. And then the next thing I knew, it was over and I had a new period drama to review! Though the episodes were short, the entire miniseries was also long enough to include scenes that are usually left out of shorter versions of Jane Eyre; some of these scenes included the gypsy scene, Jane conversing with her cousins when Jane visits the ill Mrs. Reed, Spoiler and Mr. Rochester's confession scene after the attempted wedding. Other scenes, like Jane's stay with her cousins, the Rivers, are extended. End of Spoiler

Jane, Mrs. Reed, and Mr. Brocklehurst
While only the first two episodes show Jane's early life, I think that it was enough to get all the details about Jane's early life. The first episode mostly deals with Jane at Gateshead Hall and her relationship with her aunt and cousins. The scene that I remember that was included that is often left out of other versions of Jane Eyre was the doctor's visit after Jane's incident in the red room. I liked how there was time devoted to her recovery and that it gave time for Aunt Reed to contact Mr. Brocklehurst to send Jane to Lowood (in other versions, I noticed that it happens very suddenly). By the second episode, Jane is settled at Lowood and we get to see what her life was like at Lowood. This part was also more detailed than other productions and details that are usually left out were included. My only complaint about the Lowood episode was that Helen Burns, Jane's only friend, got sick and died very quickly. They left out Jane and Helen's final scene together that was in the book and then the next thing I knew, Jane was grown up and was a teacher at Lowood. Other than that part, the rest of the episode took its time to go into detail.
*Facepalm* (Sorry, couldn't resist! ;-) )

The rest of the episodes recount Jane's life as an adult and getting a position as a governess at Thornfield. I will sound like a broken record player at this point, but... well, here we go! These episodes were also very detailed and took their time to tell the story. These episodes also take their time to develop Jane's and Mr. Rochester's relationship, which is something that the other versions of Jane Eyre rush through. Sure, some scenes occur that weren't in the book (at least as far as I remember) like Jane saying hello to Mr. Rochester in the hallway and who ignores her, but it said a lot about their personalities. The extra scenes, I thought, added something to this miniseries that isn't often expressed very well in the movies about how their relationship grows.

Jane writing.
Zelah Clarke I thought did a good job playing the 18 year old Jane (though she didn't look 18). She looked just plain enough for the role (some of the Janes I've seen were pretty when in the book she is supposed to be plain). She also has the very quiet demeanor that Jane has on the outside, but she also exhibits the emotional side of Jane in an understated way. Her emotions also come out at appropriate times and we see them in a more stated way. The only thing that I could find fault with Zelah Clark's Jane was the way she sounded with her replies to Mr. Rochester: some of the time, I thought she was a little too snappy than how I imagined Jane, but this is a small issue and doesn't take away too much from her overall performance. And despite this, she is still the most accurate Jane I have seen.

Mr. Rochester played by Timothy Dalton
Okay, y'all know how much I dislike Mr. Rochester. I simply cannot like his character at all. While he annoyed me to no end throughout the entire miniseries (which was bound to happen anyways), I will say that Timothy Dalton did get the character very well. Even though Timothy Dalton vexed me greatly in this role, he got Rochester whole personality down well: the pride, the secretive nature, the emotional side, the romantic side (not my favorite in any character). He does have the tendency to go from talking regularly to a burst of anger, but isn't that the way Mr. Rochester is anyway? He may be the most accurate portrayal of Mr. Rochester I've seen (though many people claim that he was too handsome... I don't see it ;-p ).

Jane viewing the scenery from the
top of Thornfield
Like with a lot of period dramas produced by BBC at the time, the scenery isn't anything to scream about. Many of the scenes looked like they were filmed on sound stages, though some of the outdoor scenes look like they were filmed on location (see the picture at the right). The sets did get the job done and weren't bad, just nothing special.

The costumes were okay and got the job done, but I didn't think they were anything special. One advantage of the costumes is that I was able to place the approximate date of the story. In this Jane Eyre, it looked like the story started sometime in the 1820s, but ended sometime in the 1840s.

Jane during the proposal scene: notice the white pelerine she
is wearing.
Jane was dressed very plainly throughout the entire miniseries. She must have had maybe two or three dresses throughout her adult life that were dressed up with a white pelerine (an 1840s fichu-like garment). While I wasn't fond of her choice of dress (though more like the costume department's choice of dress), it was representative of her. Probably the best dressed women in this miniseries are the rich characters (Blanche Ingram, Adele, Mrs. Reed even), but these characters don't have a whole lot of screen time, so the dresses that we see are plain.

Jane visits the disfigured Mr. Rochester. Notice the mullet?
The men's costumes are pretty much similar to each other (but what do you expect? It was like that for about a hundred years): jacket, trousers, cravat, hat for outdoors, etc. Mr. Rochester is dressed like your average rich man (Pride and Prejudice reference anyone?) of the time (though towards the end of the miniseries, what was with that mullet he had?). The men that are dressed differently are the clergy members (Mr. Brocklehurst and St. John Rivers), who are dressed appropriately for their profession.

There is very little music in this miniseries. There's the opening theme song and some piano music here and there, but other than that, there really isn't much music to hear or to leave an impression in your mind.

Overall: 3.75/5
Though Jane Eyre is not my favorite story, this is probably the best/most accurate version that I've seen. It stays pretty close to the story and the details in the book (as far as I can remember). The shorter episodes easily fit into my busy schedule, so I was able to watch it easily. I was entertained by it and rather liked that the pace of the story was slower than other versions, but if you're new to Jane Eyre, than you might find the pace of the story to be a bit slow. The scenery and costumes aren't the best, but the story-telling is of good quality and the actors suited their roles. If you have to watch one version of Jane Eyre, I would recommend this one since it is the most accurate.

I would say this miniseries was about TV-PG. There are some intense scenes and some suggestive dialogue (concerning Mr. Rochester's past), but it's nothing out of the ordinary and is pretty much the content that you would find in the original novel.

Jane Eyre is available on DVD in various boxed sets and on Netflix. The entire miniseries runs about 239 minutes and is made up of eleven 30-minute episodes.

Old-Fashioned Charm
This review is apart of the Period Drama Challenge. Come join the fun!


  1. Enjoyed this one - its one of my favorites. :)

  2. This is my favorite version of Jane Eyre! :-)

  3. This is my favorite version of my favorite novel :-) I'm in the middle of the Ciaran Hinds version now myself, and you're making me want to quit and watch this instead.

    1. I plan on watching the Ciaran Hinds version at some point. I've only seen clips of it, but I wasn't very impressed with it. How do you like the Ciaran Hinds version?

  4. So glad you enjoyed this one, Miss Laurie! I did too when I saw it several years ago. Need to watch again, though! I saw the Ciaran Hinds one a while back and enjoyed it, though it wasn't one that I love. I gave it an 8, looks like. Back in December. :) I guess the main problem was how short it was. ANYWAY. That's all. :)

  5. This is one version of Jane Eyre that I've not yet seen (I've only seen the four 'younger' versions than this one), but your review makes me curious about it. I like to hear that it's more detailed and more scenes of the book are added and I just like Timothy Dalton in general :-P

  6. I have to say this is the first Jane Eyre version I had every watched when I saw it about 10 years ago...and I loved it forever til the latest one came out! I LOVE Timothy Dalton in this film, and I LOVE the gypsy part which they seem to leave out of many of the films (if not all?). Great version and lovely review!

    1. If I remember correctly (and I've only seen parts of the 2006 version a long time ago), the 2006 Jane Eyre I think had a gypsy scene, but it was different from the book (I think Mr. Rochester turned out to be hiding behind a curtain and wasn't playing the gypsy at all), but yes, definitely a scene that gets left out that is a good scene to include.


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