Jane Eyre 1996

Charlotte Gainsbourg, William Hurt

"We shall work hard and we shall be content." -Jane

"The shadows are as important as the light." -Jane

"How can you be so stupid?" -Jane

This version takes a fresh look at the novel. The flow of the narrative is different- much faster in pace, so that some scenes happen quickly right after the other- giving time no doubt to show the more leisurely and melancholy scenes of Jane and Rochester alone. During Brocklehurt's first visit to the Reeds, he immediately takes Jane away to Lowood, and there is a quick transition from Helen Burns dying to older Jane by her graveside then walking to take the coach to Thornfield. And as soon as Jane flees from Rochester and a bigamous marriage, Thornfield is on fire and the audience knows that Rochester has been injured before we know what has happened to Jane.

The overall tone of the movie emphasizes Jane and Rochester's loneliness, which makes the film very poignant. Any "supernatural" elements to the story is minimized- Mr. Rochester does not loom up on Jane, but passes her by and then slips on ice (like in the book), and Bertha's madness has a touch more realism and sympathy when she pushes Grace Poole to her death and then jumps after her. And again, Jane does not hear Mr. Rochester's voice calling to her (though there is that one instance where maybe you could hear him whispering her name on the winds?) but instead she looks into her heart and knows she must go back and find out what happened to him. Even the Rivers aren't her cousins, but just happened to be taking care of Mrs. Reed, and eventually of her effects.

This is a beautiful film- great sets, locations, vistas. The music is beautiful and haunting. Despite the truncated adaptation and the one-sided portrayal of Rochester, I really enjoyed this film. Especially for the pathos of Jane and Rochester's romance.