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Jane Eyre is a tough adaptation. You need a host of competent actors
for the minor roles, good child actors and a brooding, fiery Bronte
hero for Rochester, capable of attaching a variety of women and
inspiring devotion in one of literature's great heroines.
There have been plenty of great Rochesters, George C Scott and Ciaran Hinds to name but two, and Toby Stephens may be another. The ladies certainly seem to think so.
But in Ruth Wilson we may finally have a memorable Jane Eyre. An actress who is strikingly beautiful but not superficially pretty. Who can look dour and empty, who is believably dull and innocent and yet simultaneously contains the fire for a great love story. She has fabulous poise and control. Only the smallest alterations of expression are required to communicate changing emotions bubbling below the surface. One of the reasons it fits so well into four hours is that Ruth can do 10 pages of prose with one change of expression. Adorable.
It goes along at a fair old pace. Jane is into and out of Lowood in the first 10 minutes. But the texture is right. The two central characters have sparked on and off each other very convincingly.
Will it be the one?
(After the Final Episode) There's no doubt. It is THE one. Started extremely well and got better and better. There are so many outstanding moments between the two leads and not just in the big scenes. Watch Ruth Wilson's incredible acting in the stairwell as she summons up the courage to enter the tower room to nurse Mason, balanced by Toby's concern followed by his wordless decision to trust her. Or his petulance as he welcomes her return from Gateshead, turning to delight in Jane's pleasure in coming home. The last episode is unforgettable. As good as television gets.
A lavish production in all the right ways (script, cast, direction,
location, details), this is a perfect literary adaptation - very much
in the heritage of the BBC's 1996 Pride and Prejudice, but perhaps even
better. Toby Stephens (the son of Dame Maggie Smith) plays the brusque,
flawed Mr Rochester with exactly the right admixture of arrogance and
warmth, while newcomer Ruth Wilson is luminous as English rose Jane
Eyre - like a swan swimming, her impassive face nevertheless conveys a
wealth of feeling churning beneath. The location filming is handled
deftly, with careful camera angles leaving us with the sense that we
haven't seen everything yet - and oh, what locations: this is how it
was always supposed to look.
A wonderful adaptation of this classic. The casting is excellent, Ruth
makes a delightful and intriguing Jane and Toby Stephens is an utterly
fantastic Rochester. This is a compelling series, each episode leaves
you anxious to see the next. The set designers, costume designers have
excelled themselves and the lighting in particular is superb.
The acting is generally of an extremely high standard and has been very well cast. I would not be surprised to see this adaptation doing for Bronte what Pride and Prejudice did for Austen. Toby Stephens' Rochester is even more ruggedly handsome and desirable than Darcy (if that is at all possible). This should be on everyone's list of things to watch.
...but now I am truly hooked. As I waited patiently for each hour of
more Jane, I grew to admire the way the book was handled. Yes, much of
Jane's past is missing, but what is there is captivating. Georgie
Henley is scarily mature - more than she has a right to be - and her
understanding of young Jane's gravity and passion was wonderfully
When Ruth Wilson took the scene, I didn't see at first how she was the unearthly Jane I had read. But it became clearer and clearer, and by far she is the most human and understandable Jane yet. Her face speaks volumes as she says nothing. "That face," comments Toby Stephens' Rochester. It is true. Though we see her silent face many times, we have no problem guessing exactly what she is feeling.
At first, I thought Toby was disappointing. I quite liked the sarcasm of William Hurt in the 1996 version, and Mr. Stephens seemed more brash than sarcastic, more flirting than teasing. But it was the chemistry that quite obviously grew between these two characters that has solidified Toby Stephens as Edward Fairfax Rochester for me. For the first time in a movie version, I realized how much the two had become friends first, and then soul mates.
Two other things were handled extraordinarily. The sex and the scary. From dark corridors and floating candles, burning beds, portraits of mad people and blood dripping, Susanna White got her Gothic right. It is almost a ghost story. This suspense keeps the story from being overly lovey-dovey, and shows a real contrast between the white taffeta-covered aristocracy, and the darkly-clad Jane in Rochester's dim study.
As for the X factor, this is not Jane Austen. Women can have conversations with men alone in rooms. Dark-haired, exotic beauties can seduce with a look, cheat with a smile and sin the world round. All of it is not afraid to show up in this version. Rochester and Jane's connection, displayed quite innocently and platonic in some versions, blazes with passion in this. The flashbacks in the final hour of series are some of the steamiest and most emotionally charged parts of this production.
It's heart-warming, passionate, suspenseful, full of beautiful scenery and costuming; all in all, a whole 4 hours of excellent entertainment. Don't miss out.
This is the first adaptation of Jane Eyre that I have seen and I am
thoroughly enjoying it. Ruth Wilson, a relative newcomer to TV, is
fantastic in the role of Jane. She captivates the role brilliantly and
her facial expressions say it all, she need not ever speak. She is an
amazing actress and I hope to see her more in the future.
What can I say about Toby Stephens in the role of Mr Rochester? He was born to play the this part as he captures the brooding, mysteriousness of Mr Rochester perfectly. He is an amazing actor and extremely handsome, he has now replaced Mr Darcy as the love of my life, I didn't think it was possible girls but watch this and you will feel the same.
The chemistry between the two actors is amazing, I don't know what I am going to do with my Sunday nights when it finishes.
I was looking forward to this series and wasn't disappointed. In my
humble opinion its one of the best series the BBC have ever produced
and in Toby Stephens Rochester we saw one of the greatest performances
seen on British television. His scenes with Jane (Ruth Wilson) towards
the end of episode 4 were extremely emotional. In fact I can't watch
Toby's scenes back without crying my eyes out. I've grown to care about
Rochester and thats undoubtedly due to the depth of feeling Toby gave
to the role. I look forward to seeing this amazing actor in future
I do hope the music from the series will be issued on CD.
Well what can one say about this adaptation
It is superb, anyone who does not like this version is mad, it has all the right qualities for a classic, Ruth Wilson is superb and i cannot believe that she is only fresh out of drama school what a brilliant actress she is amazing and has at last created the perfect Jane, fiery yet innocent, sad yet elated, she has brought the character off the paper and to life, and Toby Stephens OH MY GOD what a Rochester, hes is so gorgeous, we can now see what Jane is so attracted to, he has created a Rochester that is a certain rival for Mr Darcy sex god status. But he has also showed us the tortured soul that Rochester really was, shutting himself away while all the while just wanting someone to really love and love him in return.
I have seen nearly all the adaptations of Jane Eyre and this is the best in my opinion, not since P AND P have i had this much anticipation for a Sunday nights television
Well done BBC you have done it once again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having recently re-read the Charlotte Brontë's novel for the 30th time
I noticed with pleasure how many film adaptations of that timeless
novel are now available on DVD and I undertook the enterprise of
watching them all. The Masterpiece version of 2006 was the last one I
had to watch and the numerous positive reviews of it had led to me to
expect an extraordinarily good version of the novel. I was utterly
Nothing of what has fascinated generations of readers since the novel was published in 1847 appears in this particular version. It is more a perversion of the novel than an adaptation of it, and to call that film "Jane Eyre" is close to impudence. Firstly, the filmmakers cut out many crucial scenes of the novel, but invented others which have no relation to the novel whatsoever. Secondly, and for admirers of the novel this in nearly unbearable, next to none of the novel's fantastic dialogues between Rochester and Jane have been retained in their original form - thereby cutting out the essence of the novel's timeless charm. These dialogues (or rather Rochester's monologues) are beautifully written, fresh, unusual, striking and highly fascinating, and to change them in a stupid attempt to modernize them is to undermine the novel's most beautiful element. But even if one put up with all this and sided with those who say that a film adaptation of novel does not necessarily have to follow the novel's plot and retain its lines, this film would still be a failure because the script writers or director displayed a complete and sad disregard for the etiquette and conventions of the time in which the novel is set. The mid 19th century's established code of behaviour, its sense of propriety, decorum, decency and modesty are completely violated. Toby Stephens' Rochester and Ruth Wilson's Jane are both young, sensual and sex-conscious people and behave as a modern couple would. As a consequence they have no resemblance whatever to the characters of the book. The film's constant emphasis on the sexual attraction between Rochester and Jane is a gross deviation from the novel, which depicts a love between soul-mates, a love that arises from affinity of character and spirit. Apparently the filmmakers considered the emphasis on the sexual element as an appropriate means of modernizing the novel and securing the interest of a younger and supposedly shallow audience in the story. The most striking example of that is the parting scene between Jane and Rochester after the aborted wedding. They both lie on the bed, kiss repeatedly and seem near to taking off their clothes. This is an even worse distortion of the novel's pivotal parting scene than in the Hinds/Morton version, in which he tells her to go if she does not love him enough to stay. In the heartbreaking scene in the novel Jane rejects all Rochester's caresses and steels herself against his attempts to convince her to stay. The question must be allowed why filmmakers still continue to shoot films called "Jane Eyre", when all they retain from the novel are some parts of the plot. Why do they on the one hand obstinately set their films in the same period as the novel, with great attention to costume and setting, when they are on the other hand unable to display not only the true spirit of the novel but also that of the period?
All these points of criticism make it hard to decide whether the actors do a good job or not. If they wanted to portray the Rochester and Jane of the novel it is an utter failure on their part or on the part of the director. Toby Stephens' Rochester in particular has no resemblance at all to the novel's main character. He does not possess Rochester's charisma and overpowering presence and also fails to portray Rochester's torture of soul, his struggle with his conscience, his moodiness and abruptness. His Rochester is simply a weak, sensual young man, nothing more. Ruth Wilson is a good actress, but the woman she plays is a bold, self-confident, modern female, but not Jane Eyre.
As a conclusion it must be said that when one takes liberties in adapting a famous novel for the screen, as one is perfectly free to do, one should at least have a feeling for the spirit of the period one portrays. There have been many beautiful adaptations of famous novels in the last years, which were true both to the literary models as well as to the period in which the novels play (e.g. Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma) and which have charmed the audiences without their having to be sexed up. The makers of the latest version of Jane Eyre unfortunately failed to recognize what is timeless in the novel and what is unchangeably bound to its time. The film is therefore an example of a senseless and insensitive attempt to modernize a classic novel.
The question then which of the other versions one prefers is of course largely a matter of taste. If, however, one is looking for truthfulness to the novel, you should turn to the BBC productions of 1973 and 1983. The 1973 is a nearly word-for word adaptation of the novel, but digresses from the novel in that Sorcha Cusack's Jane is a self-confident, robust and sophisticated young woman and does therefore not resemble the small, shy and elf-like Jane of the novel. And also Michael Jayston, although a good actor and a good Rochester, pales in comparison with Timothy Dalton, who portrays Rochester in the 1983 production, which is for me without question the ultimate version of Jane Eyre. This version follows the novel's plot scene for scene, retains the novel's wonderful lines and boasts of two leading actors who capture the essence of the character they played.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although it was beautifully filmed, this is one of the worst
adaptations of Jane Eyre. It is untrue to the book and the character of
Jane. Where is Jane in all this genteel loveliness? She is portrayed as
a lifeless mouse who has barely anything to say other than "Yes, sir"
or "No, sir." Where is the headstrong Jane who speaks her mind? Jane
was not a sappy little girl pining for romance. In fact, she openly
rebuffed most of Rochester's kindnesses toward her with her brusque
common sense. It was only when alone with her own thoughts that she
dared allow herself the sweet dreams of budding love - but not in this
adaptation. Here we see Jane openly longing for love and practically
throwing herself at Rochester. Charlotte would not have dreamed of
behaving in such a fashion and never would have written her heroine
that way! From this adaptation one would surmise that Rochester loved
Jane solely because she was "soft and yielding" and lacking a
personality, not because they were fiery kindred spirits, which is what
the book declares them to be. In the book, Rochester recognizes Jane
for who she is. He knows her to be his equal, his match, and that is
the one thing they both long for so desperately. It was worth more to
him than beauty or fortune. You don't get that in this adaptation. You
get a rich guy who's sick of phony women chasing him so he goes after
the "quiet, plain girl" to ease his pain. The book is much, much
I had not read over the cast list before watching this adaptation and I confess that I was disappointed when Toby Stephens showed up as Rochester. I like him as an actor, but he generally plays weak men and I guess I had stereotyped him as such. Thankfully, he quickly disabused me of such feelings. He is a magnificent Rochester. His astounding performance was the only thing that kept me watching, and I dare say it is the thing that has tricked most reviewers into claiming this adaptation is a good one. If you love the book, you will not love this adaptation but you will love Toby's performance. He is the Rochester to end all Rochesters and I highly recommend watching this solely for him.
ADDITIONAL WHINES (not necessary to read, really) Ruined scenes: (1) The scene with the gypsy. Why on earth did they not perform this as it was written? It is one of the most brilliant and enjoyable parts of the book! How difficult would it have been to do it properly?
(2) The rich people hold a séance (not in the book, of course). This is so unbelievably lame, I can't even discuss it.
(3) The scene on the stairs in which Rochester tells Jane she is depressed. He has a beautiful speech in the book - one that is not trite and stupid - and they replaced it with a trite and stupid scene. "You are crying." *tears roll down Jane's face* "No, I'm not crying." That's good writing? Okay then. Compare to chapter 17 of the book. Now imagine Toby Stephens performing it. We have been cheated.
A final whine not solely directed at this adaptation: Why do they always choose attractive people to play Jane and Rochester when Charlotte clearly states that Jane is plain and Rochester is downright ugly? Just curious!
EDIT: I am truly stunned by the number of reviewers who claim that this adaptation is faithful to the book. I assure you, reader, it is not!
I settled down to watch Jane Eyre with trepidation as all the other adaptations I have watched disappointed me in some way. By the end of the first episode I was thrilled with this remarkable new version of one of my favourite books. Ruth Wilson is a charming Jane - very believable and totally in character and Toby Stephen's Rochester is marvellous. All the supporting cast are just right for their roles and the photography is superb and the soundtrack very haunting. I think the setting of Thornfield Hall is brought to life magnificently. I was particularly pleased with the way the major events from the book are shown to us with only little variations from the chapters. That is always a major problem for me with any drama taken from a novel that the writers edit out too much or put their own things in for no reason but Sandy Welch has the knack of telling the story as it should be told. Looking forward to the next episodes.
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