|DVD Box Art|
(Synopsis taken from my review of Jane Eyre (1983) )
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 are a couple of familiar period drama faces in Jane Eyre:
|Actor/Actress||Character||Also Seen In|
|Toby Stephens||Mr. Rochester||Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996) as Gilbert Markham|
|Aiden McArdle||John Eshton||Mr. Selfridge as Lord Loxley|
|Pam Ferris||Grace Poole||Little Dorrit (2008) as Mrs. General|
|Francesca Annis||Lady Ingram||Wives and Daughters (1999) as Hyacinth Gibson|
|Christina Cole||Blanche Ingram||Emma (2009) as Mrs. Elton|
|Georgia King||Rosamond Oliver||Little Dorrit (2008) as Pet Meagles|
|Georgie Henley||Young Jane Eyre||Chronicles of Narnia as Lucy Pevensie|
And an interesting fact: Toby Stephens is actually the son of Maggie Smith, known throughout the period drama world for various roles (and wow! does he look like his mother!).
Overall, this is a fairly accurate adaptation of the novel, though it does have it's quirks. The section of the story about Lowood is fairly short, and if you didn't know the story, you might not even know who Helen Burns, Jane's friend at Lowood, is from watching this miniseries. The bulk of the story is focused on Jane's time at Thornfield and her relationship with Mr. Rochester, which would make sense since the bulk of the novel itself focuses on the same thing. There is more time devoted to the part of the story where Jane stays with the Rivers Family(though some details have been changed); many adaptations of Jane Eyre rush through this portion of the novel, so it was nice to see a version that devoted a decent amount of time to that part of the novel.
|Ruth Wilson as Jane Eyre|
|Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester|
Now, for the chemistry between Jane and Mr. Rochester. It was there and it wasn't badly done, but sometimes it was a little too over-the-top. Granted in some ways it wasn't as bad as the numerous kissing scenes in Jane Eyre (2011) (which did get to be ridiculous), but it did push the limit for a story in the Victorian Era. As I mentioned before, Mr. Rochester does make some suggestive comments to Jane, but aside from that, there were a couple of scenes in which they acted in ways that a Victorian couple probably wouldn't have acted. For example, I don't believe the Jane Eyre in the book would have ever allowed Mr. Rochester in her room Spoiler (and especially after the discovery of Bertha) End of Spoiler no matter the persuasion -- no respectable Victorian lady would have -- let alone the particulars of the scene (which, by the way, nothing happened, but it almost could have been something had Jane been slightly weaker). Their chemistry in this version of Jane Eyre was probably the most modern I've seen in an adaptation of Jane Eyre.
|Christina Cole as Blanche Ingram|
Spoiler A part of the story that is often left out of adaptations (or only briefly shown) is the Rosamund Oliver/St. John relationship. I liked how we got to see Miss Oliver more in this version and how she was interested in St. John and how St. John explains why he doesn't want to marry her even though they love each other. It gives insight into St. John's character and makes his proposal to Jane more expected and understandable. When other adaptations leave out this part, it can make St. John's proposal seem unexpected and random, but in this adaptation, you can see that he was looking for a good missionary wife from the start, which Jane was more qualified for than Miss Oliver. Obviously, this isn't the most important part of the story, but it's a nice feature that helps explain St. John's character. End of Spoiler
The scenery was pretty much what you would expect from a BBC period drama. The colors were nice, but they weren't so bright that it wouldn't fit in with the serious story line (basically, you're not going to find the colors you would see in a Jane Austen adaptation in this miniseries, but they were still nice). Most of the plot takes place at Thornfield Hall, so we get to see a good deal of the grounds and house used.
|An example of Regency Dress in Jane Eyre;|
notice the Regency hair.
Jane, in a break from what other Janes have worn in other versions of Jane Eyre, wears grey rather than black. In fact, I don't think she ever wears black. However, in the novel:
...however, I repaired to my room, and, with Mrs. Fairfax’s aid, replaced my black stuff dress by one of black silk; the best and the only additional one I had, except one of light grey, which, in my Lowood notions of the toilette, I thought too fine to be worn, except on first-rate occasions. (Chapter 13)This would explain why the other versions of Jane Eyre had Jane wearing black, but I wonder why this one had Jane wearing grey instead of black if the Jane in the book found that her grey dress was too fancy to be worn on any occasion. Could it be a emphasis on her passionate nature? Maybe. But it was different from the original novel.
When the Ingrams come, so come the fancy dresses. All provide a contrast to the plain dresses that Jane wears. While Lady Ingram wears more darker, matronly colors, daughter Blanche is always shown in colorful and well-trimmed dresses. Though the Ingrams are looking to marry into money, they are still of a high rank where they need to dress nicely.
It's a decent version of Jane Eyre and, for the most part, stays close to the story. However, there were some things added that didn't need to be there, especially some that turned a PG story into more of a PG-13 story. I would probably say that for the best accuracy to the story, you should probably watch the 1983 version, but if you want a more recent version that's fairly close to the story, this is a good alternative. This version is long enough so that you get a better feel for the characters than if you would watching a movie version and for the most part, everything is done well. The only bad thing about this miniseries is some of the content, but as long as you know where to skip, you can enjoy a PG-rated miniseries fairly easily with some good acting and mostly accurate story-telling.
So, this version is infamous for its content (and content that really didn't need to be there). I'll do my best to relate the parts of this miniseries that you should avoid. Generally speaking, Jane Eyre stays in the PG rating area, but this version went well into TV-14/PG-13 territory. One scene in particular made me think I was watching Shakespeare in Love (an R-rated movie: I don't recommend it). But anyways, each episode of this miniseries has at least one scene that you might want to skip. There's one scene in Episode 1 that is a Mr. Rochester flashback about Adele's mother, Celine (it's fairly mild, though, and nothing explicit). There's the ouija board scene in Episode 2 -- not necessary at all and definitely not in the book, but it's bearable. Towards the end of Episode 3, there's another Rochester Flashback Spoiler involving his wife, Bertha End of Spoiler; the one part of this scene was, I thought, was pushing the line for even a TV-14 rating. The last episode had two Jane flashbacks back to Thornfield with Mr. Rochester pleading with her to stay; these scenes were a bit uncomfortable (and also Jane would never have allowed it to happen in her room); nothing comes of the scene, but it is still a bit uncomfortable. If you avoid those scenes, you can enjoy a PG version of Jane Eyre (which is roughly where it should be).
Jane Eyre is available on DVD. It is made up of four episodes for a total of 202 minutes.