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Why remake a classic, again, piecemeal?

(Thu Jul 14 10:35:33 2011)

why im making my own Jane Eyre film

so, im  making my own video version of jane eyre.  one might say, why bother? well, i would reply, lots of reasons. for one, it has been my favorite book for a full decade now, since i first read it. second, because it is an amazing story to see interpreted by different people.  finally, tho, there are constraints on each version made that limit its essence.  i may have constraints in being unable to hire actors, and do it myself, but i have no such problems with taking on piecing together an accurate, moving, emotive and powerful piece from past glories.


so, first of, which versions am i not using?  i'm not using the czech, french, spanish, indian or chinese remakes. aside from having issues with disdaining frenchman while speaking french, or having trouble picturing Jane as a pale indian from calcutta or broad-shouldered rochester as a short chinaman, i'm not going there with subtitles.

i am not using the nineteen forty four version. this was still the time in hollywood when every period piece was done in antebellum style, all characters dressed rich, even the poor, based on jane eyre was a joke, and the makeup was over the top.  i simply can't bear to conntinue.

i am not using the nineteen seventy version with susannah york. she was way too cute, way too old and it modernized almost to missing the whole point.

i am not using the nineteen seventy two bbc  series.  while almost painfully accurate, it lacks any feeling at all.  i wouldn't have read the book if id watched that first, for fear of death by boredom.

i am not using any of the silent film adaptations. i doubt their reliability, and their ability to flow well.

so, where does that leave me in terms of usable material?  with five choices.

1983 BBC miniseries with zelah clarke and timothy dalton.

1996 franco Zeffirelli.

1997 A&E version with ciaran hinds and samantha morton.

2006 BBC series with toby stephens

2011 film with mia wasilikowski.

i thought that was a fairly good selection, myself.

so, why, with such a nice selection, would i gauge them individually insufficient to the point of wanting to remake it?

if you ever wanted to watch a version that was true to the book, the 1983 version is it. ok, dalton isn't very rochester like. he's too handsome and not broad enough. also, his attractively clipped voice doesn't scream edward fairfax rochester to me. finally, i think he smirks too much.  but, his range of emotion is generally believable. i can honestly understand why Jane would fall for him.  he is the only Rochester in the above selection of films that actually loses a hand. really, people, in the twenty first century, is it really that hard to cg a missing right hand for a couple of scenes?

zelah clarke  is one of only two out of the five to deliver the complete line   "poor, obscure, plain and little."   i do not see any reason to not completely deliver one of the most famous lines from the novel. it annoys me.  what with makeup, the plain may come off a bit cheesy, but she is the smallest actresss i've seen play jane.  she is also, perhaps, the oldest appearing  actress of the five. she was, i believe, twenty nine, which made eighteen a bit of a stretch. a also think her facial expressions were too poker-faced to match with her lines, emotion or bearing.  it is a difficult thing to make jane eyre work, visually, if you cannot see emotions clearly on her face at times, before they are repressed.  in general, she is a bit sedate to play  passionate jane. but, nothing is missed of import, the build is there, and so is the Gothic feeling.

the main flaw in this adaptation is the restriction to sets.  scenes that should take place outside, the rain after the engagement, it is all missing. it feels like their whole relationship takes place in the parlor.   i wanted to see more reality and flow to this piece.

finally, i think st. john is too austere to pass off  "yes sir, i couldn't help but like him".  dude, i couldn't help but think this man was made of wood. it is not impossible to be a driven, hard man, and also to show some humanity.

1996 has a plain jane. she is a beanpole though, so they cut out "little" from the engagement scene passion.  however, she has a great bearing to carry off jane effectively.  rochester is believably in his late thirties and not hunky.  he is not dark haired, which makes it hard for me to regard him as edward. come on, people, hair dye?

the relationship build up is believable on janes side. you can see her falling for him.   but, you don't see any of the tightly reigned in restraint rochester was utilizing, first to resist jane, then to resist revealing his hand.  he seems almost lethargic about her, indeed about everything, like he just couldn't be bothered.

finally, the prevailing weakness of a two hour film, what they cut and change.  every bit at gateshead and moor house is almost unrecognizable.  she never gains family in st. john and diana (they cut mary).  i believe she does end up rich, but it was a near miss.  it just hurts to see all the necessary changes to make it suit a theater.

The 1997. OH. MY. this is my least favorite adaptation that i'm using.  jane looks the part but does eye rolls, sarcasm, biting remarks that would've gotten a subordinate smacked upside the head because she doesn't temper the passion side with what is an essential trait of jane, self control.  this jane is allllll about feeling and passions and emotions. it is almost unbelievable that she has enough control to leave rochester.

then again, i'd have left this rochester. his age and size and coloring are great. some people gripe that he ought'nt have a mustache, but i find that a relatively minor issue.  he is mean and angry. rochester is supposed to be changeful and abrupt, yes, but also melancholy, and with a kinder heart that is revived by jane. this rochester doesnt revive, he just possesses. he yells, commands, and is in a constant state of controlled, or uncontrolled rage.  he is the opposite of the '96 placid lethargy.  i wouldn't like him, let alone fall passionately, panting mouthed, (she honest to goodness does pant) in love with this guy.

jane does not have resolution with her aunt. so, she doesn't realize she has an uncle who cares for her.  for that matter, it makes no sense how mason would've known she has getting married to rochester without john eyre.  she doesn't then get rich.  this is a problem because part of jane's journey is to realize rochester is not an idol to her by becoming independent, literally, of him.  since there is no john eyre, there are no cousins.  this not only makes the st, john proposal thing more odd, but also leaves a principal step out of jane's development.  she does not have family outside of edward who help give her a sense of self esteem and  the satisfaction of love.

so, the reason she comes back is just passionate desperation and it is no small wonder they don't talk much.  the characters haven't matured enough to make it believable, so they'd better cut things off quickly.  but, there are places where his rage and her passion are neglected in other adaptations, so there are a few moments of note i might want to slip in.

the 2006 miniseries.  in one sentance: this is my favorite version for completeness and acting, but my least favorite for modernization and hollywoodizing.  toby again has the wrong hair color, and is perhaps too handsome, though, he would not have been by eighteen forties standards.  he is broad shouldered, brooding, restrained, confusing, plotting, devoted, changeful and abrupt, morose, and haunted.  emotionally, i think he is perfect.  there are some missed moments, but in all, a great acting choice.

some people say this jane is too passionate. i really think she does it just right.  in fact,  there are some points where she is a bit too restrained with simple "yes, sir" or "no, sir", when the book indicates a more extensive response.  it almost makes rochester steal the show. but, not quite.  she is, as usual, too tall, and perhaps too pretty, though it is obvious they focus on her hard stares, and pouty top lip to make her look less attractive.

what is my beef? excessive treatment of the houseguests. removing rochester's string tied to the heart and replacing it with eschtons twins making it all scientific. again, the hand is not cut off. heck, he doesn't even lose his eye.  the biggest issue though, by far, it what happens after the marriage. i don't care that they do it by flashback. but the hollywoodization is abominable. jane would never have let edward into her room, let alone onto the bed.  they wouldn't have been all making out. the lines are changed, loads is neglected, and i honestly don't think she would have left thornfield a virgin if it had happened that way. strength of will only carries so far. self respect, sense and restraint would never have allowed that to happen because a thinking person would have known that to let him in there would have gone too far.

i think this st. john is awesome. i can see liking him, and yet despising him as cold hearted all at once. some lines/scenes are missing, but what is there is masterful and believable.


the 2011 again has a ruggedly handsome and too young rochester, a too tall, too pretty jane who could use some hair dye, and some serious adjustments for screen time.  no other film addresses the engagement month so much, but this one is too ooey-gooey sweet, as she is supposed to be resisting him.  the scenes they do have are done amazingly between the two.  mrs. fairfax has a most endearing and original interpretation.  then again, i adore the actress. i have never seen anything with dame judi dench that i don't adore her character.

i am enamored with the bird in a cage conversation moments, in the early conversations, in the proposal, but especially when he grasps her throat and talks of being unable to get into the cage because he wants her soul.  

the st. john work is remarkably good and complete for a two hour film. i love how he yells when she runs after edward's voice on the wind.  her painful winter daydream is gorgeously wrenching.  the line, "is jane not our sister, too?" before getting a kiss from st. john is a perfect set up of awkwardness.

i dislike the ending's abruptness, though this rochester looks the most unkempt after a year of any i've ever seen. still has a hand, tho...meanwhile, when the film cuts off after an authentic line none of my other versions contain: "are you altogether a human being, jane?" "i conscientiously believe so, sir." i was just mad.

finally, you don't feel the gothic mystery of bertha's presence....at all. she is totally missing, inserted as almost an afterthought.  this alters the mood, almost too much.

i'm not even going to go into how the childhood scenes, even in the most complete versions , are messed up.  i'm going to try to patch it up.

so, all in all, there are masterfully done aspects in almost all five.   but, there are glaring problems. omissions, limitations, changes, emotions gone wrong, and principle aspects cut short, wrong  or damaged.  i want a complete jane eyre. one i can love every moment of. that is why i am taking this on. for fun, for me and for the love of this romance.

as a final note, this was written on my phone, and i had no capitalization.  so sorry!


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