Every decade there seems to be yet another adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre. No two are the same though. Each adaptation seems to have something that makes it unique, whether it is the pacing of the film, the acting, or even just the cast itself.
Years ago, during a bout of insomnia, I was flipping through the channels on my television and stumbled across Jane Eyre. This particular version was from 1943 and starred Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles.
I hated it.
At that time I’d never read the book, and the movie had been on for at least a half an hour or more by the time I started watching it. With that said, I couldn’t stand the acting. I truly loathed Rochester. Jane came across as terribly meek when she should have been resolute. All in all, there was nothing I liked about it.
Fast forward to last year. I have come to love British costume dramas, and whenever I find a BBC miniseries that I’ve yet to see, I buy the DVDs as soon as I can so I can hurry home and watch them. I came upon the latest BBC miniseries of Jane Eyre from 2006. I was intrigued, and it didn’t hurt that playing Rochester was none other than Toby Stephens (son of the magnificent Dame Maggie Smith and a fantastic actor in his own right). I had to have it.
I was blown away.
To me, that miniseries is the definitive version of Jane Eyre to this day. The advantage of a miniseries when it comes to material like Jane Eyre is that the four hour run time allows the story to play out slowly. The watcher is able to see Rochester as not just this brooding man, but one who learns what it is to love. Jane, played by the superb Ruth Wilson, was quiet and kind, and anything but meek. Not to mention the chemistry between Stephens and Wilson is palpable. Their scenes together are perfection. Needless to say, in my eyes it will be difficult for any other adaptation to top this one.
On March 11th, Jane Eyre returns to theaters with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender playing Jane and Mr. Rochester respectively. I’ve been a fan of Michael Fassbender since his role as Azazeal in the BBC series Hex, a sort of Buffy-esque show but with angels taking the place of vampires. So, I am interested to see his interpretation of Edward Rochester: a dark, secretive, and deeply troubled man who never wanted the life that was thrust upon him. I will admit to some reservations about Mia Wasikowska’s ability to portray the iconic Jane. I haven’t seen much of her work outside Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, but she has always appeared a bit one note to me.
That being said, I’m eager to be proven wrong. I am hoping that Mia Wasikowska brings a strength and passion to the role that I did not expect. After all, a heroine like Jane deserves nothing less.