One day I may read Jane Eyre through in its entirety as it was meant to be read. For now, however, I will allow myself to continue to be lost in Charlotte Bronte’s exquisite word choice and careful wording. I flit from scene to scene and absorb every nuance of the tense relationship between Mr. Rochester and Jane, lost in a sea of beautiful words. The spine of my paperback is bent and riddled with the marks of my intense desire to read Bronte’s words over and over again.
Have you read Jane Eyre? Are you familiar with the mastery of word that Charlotte Bronte possessed?
**I spent two days trying to find a suitable quote to put in here, and I couldn’t decide on only one. Please go read the book to save me from this sweet torture.**
Today I want to look at my two favorite theatrical adaptations of Jane Eyre in comparison to the original text.
Jane Eyre: the 1996 Theatrical Adaptation
The 1996 theatrical adaptation starred William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg in the roles of Jane and Mr. Rochester and was directed by Franco Zeffirelli. This adaptation discards the third portion of the story where Jane wanders on the moor and is saved by the clergyman, St. John Rivers. The rest of the plot stays fairly true to the original text.
Hurt gives an outstanding portrayal of Mr. Rochester, nicely dark and brooding and mysterious. William Hurt’s natural persona lends itself to such a role though in my opinion.
Gainsbourg gives an equally impressive portrayal of Jane although I find her a bit too quiet. Jane’ character is about defensiveness and confrontation. I would have liked to have seen Gainsbourg have more spunk in her portrayal.
This adaptation is extraordinarily dark giving it an almost gothic feel. This really plays to the parts of Jane Eyre where her life was turbulent and unknown, a woman cast about in a society that did not support her in 1840s England. While this adaptation does not stick to the original plot, it does do a good job of capturing the feel of Jane Eyre.
Jane Eyre: the 2011 Theatrical Adaptation
The 2011 theatrical adaptation of Jane Eyre follows the original story in a more dramatic fashion. It opens with Jane lost on the moor, and in her recovery with the Rivers family, we see flashbacks of her childhood and Lowood School. The starring roles have Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska, and it was directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.
Michael Fassbender could rip the paint off of walls with his portrayal of Mr. Rochester. It is intense, dark, dramatic, and brooding. Everything you want from Mr. Rochester, Fassbender gives that and more.
Wasikowska is a much better Eyre in my opinion. She’s stronger and louder and more forceful. However, neither actor portrays Eyre the way I see her, and I think that’s just a casualty of being a reader first. The characters are never quite how you imagine them in your head.
Starting the action on the windswept moor gives this version a much darker, foreboding, and supernatural feel, which I think is truer to the original text’s intention. Remember in the book, Jane thinks she hears Mr. Rochester’s voice on the moor calling to her, and the actions of Bertha in the house are seen to be ghost-like. The tone of the 2011 version follows more closely with this feeling.
Which Would I Watch First?
I don’t have a good answer to this, and I actually own both on blu-ray. (In a digital world, I only save shelf space for stories that really matter to me.) I would start with the 2011 version because it most closely follows the plot and the mood of the story. However, William Hurt’s delivery of Mr. Rochester’s lines in the moonlit garden when Jane finally confesses her love is not to be missed.