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No other film version of "Jane Eyre" can touch this one for fidelity to the book and excellence of performance. Michael Jayston is the perfect Mr. Rochester - he looks the part, attractive yet not too pretty, and able to convince us of his hidden good qualities under a rough and abrasive exterior. Sorcha Cusack is wonderful as Jane - exactly what Charlotte Bronte set out to create, a plain, retiring heroine whose personality blazes through and captivates us. This version gives us the ENTIRE story, from Jane's deprived childhood and years at Lowood School to her life at Thornfield with Mr. Rochester. It even treats seriously the interlude with her cousins, St. John Rivers and his sisters, something film versions of the novel usually try to minimize or alter completely. Paradoxically, this actually works and makes sense, although it is an interruption in the more interesting Jane-Rochester story. The dialogue and narration are often taken directly from the novel, with just some abbreviation. I wish this version would appear on video - it is FAR superior to any of the others made for TV or the big screen. If you see it being broadcast (it turns up on Canadian TV sometimes) don't miss it.
I have seen many versions of Jane Eyre, and this version is at the top of my list. When I get the urge for some terrific acting and a bit of romance, I pop in the videotape and sit back to enjoy. Michael Jayston gives an incredible performance as Mr. Rochester, just amazing. Sorcha Cusack and the rest of the cast turn in equally good performances, but I felt that Jayston was the best Rochester I have ever seen! It is a lengthly production, but the length is needed to tell the story--other productions, 2 hour movies, have not been able to do nearly as good a job. But again, Michael Jayston's masterful performance is the best part of this already first-rate production!
This is probably the best treatment of Jane Eyre I've seen. A novel this rich does not adapt well to a two hour film, and this five hour production allows for a more than adequate treatment of the depth and scope of Bronte's work. The narration by Jane herself is a unique approach that I found very interesting and added to the depth of not only Jane herself but also to the other characters about whom she continually muses. Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston are excellently paired and are, in my opinion, the finest Jane and Rochester I've seen, both in terms of characterization and looks. Finally a Jane and Rochester who aren't too beautiful!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite the fact that this movie was filmed long ago, that the costumes were rather strangely chosen (at least for today's viewer), and that the supporting cast is not always at its best, this is by far the best Jane Eyre adaptation in my view: it manages the perfect note for the two main characters' development, for their chemistry, and for their reason of actions. Jayston plays wonderfully the role: all the attributes that Bronte wrote about her hero are well argued by Jayston's fine, subtle and clever acting: tortured spirit, sometimes stern and abrupt, sometimes kind and genial, eccentric, good story-teller, full of passion, masterful, yet submissive in Jane's presence, with deep and mellow voice, and playing a cat-mouse game with Jane. Jayston managed to bring the character to life as none before of after him has managed; the viewer never has the feeling that he "plays", that he is artificial; he really becomes Rochester while on screen and looks like he feels any line and any movement he is acting. Nothing over-elaborate as it was with Hurt's Rochester (96 version), nothing theatrical or bombastic as in the case of Dalton's Rochester (83 version), nothing staring or predatory like Welles's Rochester ('44 version), and definitely nothing unpleasant or out-of-range (or rage) as with Hinds's Rochester.
I was delighted to read the positive reviews of this wonderful adaptation of Jane Eyre. I agree wholeheartedly with all the comments listed. I remember watching this series on BBC 2 in the early 1970s and was absolutely captivated. It brought the novel to life in the most magical way. At that time I was studying Jane Eyre as a text for 'O' level English Literature and it made studying the novel a real pleasure. I have never seen a better Mr Rochester or Jane Eyre and the sexual chemistry between Michael Jayston and Sorcha Cusack was electrifying to watch. I have not seen this series since that original broadcast and to the best of my knowledge it was never repeated. It was pre video recorders in our household so we have no copy of it. I would dearly love to view it again and have tried in vain to obtain a copy. The BBC have released later and in my opinion inferior versions but apparently have no plans to release this one. It is testimony to the power of those wonderful performances of more than 30 years ago that I can still remember how superb they were. Here's hoping that the BBC have a change of heart.
I first saw this mini series back in 1973 when it was broadcast on the BBC and thought it was wonderful. I immediately read the book and couldn't believe how true to the book the adaptation was. Also what I loved about it was it wasn't a glitzy Hollywood version, it completely captured the atmosphere of the book. All the cast gave brilliant performances. Sorcha Cusack was a perfect Jane but Michael Jayston's performance was just astounding. He managed to portray all the complexities of the character with a touch of dry wit, and the chemistry between Rochester and Jane is just amazing. I'm afraid the 1983 Dalton version just doesn't do anything for me. Dalton is an excellent actor but once you've read the book he doesn't really fit the part the way Michael Jayston does. It is fantastic that the powers that be have come to their senses and decided to re-release it after all these years. It is an exceptional adaptation. Don't miss it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The '73 BBC production of "Jane Eyre" with Sorcha Cusack and Michael
Jayston is a decent adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel but
it pales in comparison to the outstanding BBC production of '83 in
several respects. Firstly, the '73 version has the weaker script, which
very often stays too close to the novel for is own good, yet at times
diverts unnecessarily from the literary model. It may sound paradoxical
that a production of Jane Eyre can stay too close to the novel, but so
it is. The long dialogues between Rochester and Jane are a joy to read,
but when they are transferred to the screen in nearly their full length
as in this production, their complexity and very unusualness create an
impression of artificiality and staginess. The '83 version, on the
contrary, shows how superbly these dialogues can be adapted to the
screen. There, scriptwriter Alexander Baron did not keep all the lines,
but infallibly picked the core lines which are essential to
characterize the protagonists and convey the essence of the scenes.
Faithful as the long conversation are rendered in the '73 version, they
appeal to the intellect rather than the heart, they are interesting,
but not captivating, and they lack the focus and also the intensity of
the scenes between Rochester and Jane in the '83 version.
Another negative point is the more than frequent use of Jane's voice-overs. Nearly all versions make use of that technique and with just reason, but in this adaptation it is driven to absurd extremes. Jane's inner voice constantly interrupts even the dialogues between her and Rochester, only to inform the audience about what is already blatantly obvious and what could have been shown as effectively by plain good acting. Alas, Sorcha Cusack's acting abilities are limited at least in this role. She either raises her eyebrows or wears an amused, know-all smile, which is simply not enough to render the character of the novel's heroine. But then her whole concept of Jane is wrong. She plays Jane as a self-confident, sophisticated and worldly-wise young woman, who is right from the beginning on terms of equality with Mr Rochester. She completely misses Jane's guardedness, her shyness, modesty and inexperience. Her Jane is even snappish and pert at times. But the misrepresentation of Jane's character is not Cusack's fault alone but partly also due to the script, which brings me back to my first point of criticism: Since the script is overall so faithful to the novel, the viewer naturally concludes that each word uttered in this version must come straight from the novel but such is not the case. A very attentive reader of the novel will have noticed that they frequently put repartees and remarks in Jane's mouth which she does not utter in the novel and which give her a sophistication, shrewdness and boldness the young and inexperienced Jane of the novel does not possess. And getting Jane wrong they also got the relationship between her and Rochester wrong. She constantly has the final say during their conversations, she dominates and lectures Rochester instead of being lectured by him.
With such a Jane there is little Michael Jayston as Rochester can do. Jayston is an admirable, subtle actor, who speaks his many lines well and who is really the highlight of this version, but unfortunately he lacks that charisma, that great overpowering presence and natural authority which are necessary to play Rochester and which for example make Orson Welles a more convincing Rochester in the '44 movie, although he has much less screen time than Jayston and does not possess the latter's subtlety. Jayston is superb at playing the eloquent and refined gentleman, but simply cannot portray Rochester' imperious and dark side, and his outbursts of anger and temperament seem unnatural and forced. In the '83 version all sides of Rochester's character are rendered in equal perfection by Timothy Dalton, who combines magnetism and a great acting range and who is furthermore unrivalled in his incredible delivery of Charlotte Brontë' unusual language. Unfortunately there is also little chemistry between Jayston and Cusack: their interplay is amusing but it lacks feeling and their love scenes are passionless and dry.
As regards the plot most of the novel's important scenes are faithfully shown in this version although the part between Jane's flight from Thornfield and her arrival at Moor House is cut out but two scenes are altered and to their disadvantage. The first is the gypsy scene. In this version Jane guesses who the gypsy woman really is even before she sees her. Rochester can only say a few sentences before Jane makes him stop the masquerade. In the novel this scene is an admirable means of characterizing both Rochester and Jane here it only serves to make Jane look very smart and Rochester like a fool. Better to leave out that scene than to mutilate it in that fashion. The second is the parting scene after the aborted wedding. This scene would have benefited if they had stayed closer to the novel, but for some reason they considerably shortened it and consequently that scene conveys next to none of the heartbreak and despair of the scene of the novel. Again, both these scenes are done to perfection in the '83 version.
Let me conclude by saying that despite all my points of criticism I still think that this version in its overall great faithfulness to the novel is miles above nearly all other Jane Eyre adaptation, and I would invite all true lovers of the novel and using that term I exclude all those who earnestly affirm that the silly 2006 perversion of Jane Eyre is true to the novel or to the spirit of the novel to watch both the productions of '73 and '83 and to form their own opinion. For my part I have found the definitive Jane Eyre in the '83 adaptation.
I have to give this production extra points for effort. It certainly
wasn't the lame chick flick that BBC 2006 was. They did stick close to
the novel and the adaptation does have it's charm... but it lacks
power, nuance and maybe even emotional truth.
Before you invest money, I urge you to view some of the 1973 scenes, currently on you-tube. Everyone has a different idea of what good is and -- poor production values aside -- I fear some will find these performances either off point with the story, or too intellectualized by today's standards.
I'm not opposed to narration; Jane has few enough lines and Brontë's words are visceral, stunning and instructive about her heroine. But the voice overs *here,* take place during scenes with a lot of dialog. Since the actors can as easily fill in subtext, the running commentary is pointless. The only place I've seen the device used effectively is in comedies, like SCRUBS, where the split-hair-timing of the juxtaposed VO and dialog actually helps *create* the humor. However *here,* it is not used to *any* dramatic effect whatsoever.
Jayston is probably the stronger of the two and he IS endearing (especially when singing at the piano), but lacks the edge and imposing presence of the Rochester in the novel. Cusack also has her moments, but she plays nearly every scene with arched eyebrows (for reasons I cannot begin to fathom) which gives her the appearance of wearing a mask. And barely seems able to conceal a condescending smirk, which alternates with a gape-eyed stare. Neither of which pass for Jane's keen intelligence and curiosity, nor her lack of world experience. She HAS since acknowledged she didn't really have a handle on the role, though I know ardent fans will disagree. Although the 1973 and 2006 BBC adaptations are very different -- the former tried to remain faithful to the novel, while the latter couldn't get far enough away from it -- I found both suffered from a lack of character contrast and dynamic.
I would like to tip my cap to Geoffrey Whitehead, who for me turned in an extremely gratifying performance as St. John Rivers. He was understated and energetic -- as connected to the material as his character was distant from the lives he missioned to save. Rigid, frigid and shocking in his presumption of what was best for others. Ambitious and frighteningly blinded by the authority afforded him by his collar. I felt it all from Whitehead. It was without a doubt the performance that engaged me most consistently. Despite the intrusive narration.
This adaptation does include the problematic gypsy segment. However, Jayston who has some wonderful subtle moments in other scenes, rides the surface of what little of Brontë's words are used here, instead of delivering them with full intention. In any case it wouldn't have landed since in this version, Jane guesses immediately. Cusack signifies this with a jig-is-up grin, almost straight out of the gate, instead of becoming vulnerable to and absorbed by the words, (if for no other reason, than the sharp insight they carry.) And absorbing us along with her. For me the meaning of the segment was lost. This exemplifies a problem I had throughout this adaptation; the scene is there, but not the intention.
Understandably this scene has only been attempted once as written. Probably because it's tough to pull off, since the audience invariably "knows." The key is both actors have to play it straight from their respective point of views. When done with full commitment, no feigned (and invariably funny) gypsy voice will prevent the words from being heard. And if Jane becomes fully involved, after her initial resistance (which helps put us in her corner and provides a dramatic pass, into *her* shifting reality) we'll follow her. Done right the scene allows for a bizarre but fascinating mix humor and intended poignancy.
Otherwise the writers failed to cut passages in ways that make Brontë's dialog playable (and the '83 adaptation demonstrates that *much* of it is *very* playable). So part of the problem may lie there. *I do think the more dynamic '83, which presumably had the lowest budget per hour, is richer and more realized. It's equally faithful and a lot less self conscious, at least to this viewer. True they took some risks, but with few exceptions, most of them paid off.
*If you need great production values, neither version will work for you.
Have to say I liked the 1983 version until I saw this one. Wow! Where has it been hiding all these years. Michael Jayston is amazing as Rochester. His acting is superb and he is wonderfully witty in the part. Most actors who have portrayed Rochester have managed to portray some aspects of the character well, but somehow Jayston manages to get everything right. Sorcha Cusack is excellent as Jane, a really moving performance. Rochester and Jane just look right together in this adaptation, you can really believe in the characters. My only quibble with this adaptation is that it is not long enough, I could have done with a lot more of the same. My recommendation is make sure that you don't miss this 1973 version, it's a joy to watch.
This BBC TV miniseries version is, without a doubt, the best screen adaptation of the timeless novel. The storyline is as close to the book as could be expected, without major omissions. The language is carefully preserved, and when spoken by the excellent actors Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston, the book does come alive. What a tribute to Charlotte Bronte! Why, oh why, has it still not been released on video?!
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