While Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights started off with fairly happy childhoods that went horribly awry, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre begins with pure misery and progresses to a satisfying conclusion. Thus, since I prefer happy endings, it is higher on my list. Also, whereas Wuthering Heights held heartbreaking romance alone, Jane Eyre manages the same while including some Gothic mystery as well.
Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel has seen plenty of film adaptations, but my preferred version is the 1970 television film with George C. Scott as Mr. Rochester and Susannah York as the titular heroine. Having just won an Oscar for his star turn in Patton, Scott creates the most compelling depiction of Rochester, and his hooked nose, jutting chin, and familiar gruff manner help him fit the role like a glove. Orson Welles and Michael Fassbender did all right, but Scott’s is the best Rochester performance I’ve seen. Likewise, Susannah York has the right balance of plainness and subtle beauty for the role of Jane, and her acting better evokes her internal emotions than that of Joan Fontaine or Mia Wasikowska.
Though the opening scenes at Lowood are hard to watch for their harsh cruelty to young girls, I appreciate that the film left out the part involving Jane’s equally cruel aunt so as not to extend the heartlessness. On the other hand, the section featuring St. John Rivers is actually closer to the novel than most other versions, though I personally consider that whole part as filler to give Jane something to do until Rochester’s crazy wife dies.
The end may not be quite as happy as in the book, but it has a bittersweet satisfaction that usually makes my VC start tearing up. This particular version may look dated with its Masterpiece Theatre style, but the fine acting and John Williams’ wistful Emmy-winning score makes it the quintessential Jane Eyre for me. (Interesting Wikipedia note: Apparently, it’s also the most popular version in China, having been translated into Mandarin back in the 1980s.)
Best line: (Jane, as she thinks Rochester is talking about marrying a rich lady) “Why do you confide in me like this? What are you and she to me? Do you think that because I am poor and plain, I have no feelings? I promise you, if God had gifted me with wealth and beauty, I should make it as hard for you to leave me now as it is for me to leave you. But He did not. Yet, my spirit can address yours as if both had passed through the grave and stood before Him equal.”Artistry: 9 Characters/Actors: 10 Entertainment: 7 Visual Effects: N/A Originality: 8 Watchability: 7 TOTAL: 41 out of 60
Next: #206 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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