It is a universal truth that where there is a Jane Eyre adaptation, there are opinions… those who love it, those who disliked it, and so forth. I finally had a chance to see the new film and thought it was adequate but not brilliant. Maybe it is impossible to adapt the book completely, because it seems like all the adaptations have good and bad qualities to them. Each one to a large extent also leaves out the very core of the novel, which is Jane’s faith in God. But we cannot have God in anything nowadays so the thought-provoking emphasis on faith is all but stripped from the work, leaving only the horrid rigidity of dis-likable “Christians” behind. When you do that, the concept of why Jane chooses to leave Edward is wholly abandoned, and may leave many modern audiences wondering why.
Believers and those who understand history know why she cannot, why it is an immorality she cannot tolerate and one that would have forever made her an outcast. Such minor things as the housekeeper warning Jane to be careful as she knows so little of men are likely to drift over the heads of anyone unfamiliar with the times. In other words, “He’s not about to marry you, Jane… he’ll promise to do so only to an extent in which he gets you into bed, then he will conveniently remember former obligations and cast you by the wayside.”
But back to the adaptation at hand. The raging question on everyone’s lips is, does it overshadow or impress more than the miniseries? In my opinion, no, both because of its limited running time and its characterization.The story was condensed really well but so much so that all minor characters are completely left out and Blanche has five minutes of screen time. Mia is dull in the lead, which is a shame because with a more charismatic actress I think the film would have worked quite well. The flirting, sexual tension, and chemistry that made the miniseries so wonderful is absent, leaving the dialogue vulnerable to misinterpretation without a softening of underlining amusement and attraction. I am also bored with Judi Dench, since she does the same monotone performance in everything nowadays, regardless of the role. (The only exception is Miss Matty in Cranford and to be honest, I would have preferred another in the part.)
What did turn out exceptionally well was the scene in the library, which is very raw and emotional and made me feel the enormous difficulty Jane has in choosing between her honor and the man she loves. This pretty much puts all other scenes in the film (and most of the other adaptations) to shame. It essentially captures what the miniseries did in a different (and far less controversial) way. What I love most about the miniseries is that it makes me want her to stay, even though I know she shouldn’t. I want them together so much it hurts. I can feel her anguish in having to leave. I don’t care if that scene with them resting together on the bed isn’t in the book, it clearly illustrates what she is giving up and how hard Edward attempts to persuade her to remain. I’m not a big fan of making changes that are out of character — but that scene exists in a gray area for me, because while it is out of character for Jane, it is not out of character for Edward. It is entirely within his character to attempt, even in such a small, delicate manner, to seduce her into remaining with him. It’s an incredibly sexy scene for many reasons that have nothing to do with him kissing her in it; it’s all about raw desire, and that for me makes it much more powerful when Jane chooses her beliefs over what she wants with her heart and body.
In that respect, this film captured the same desire and emotion that the miniseries did, but in a manner that does not taint Jane’s reputation nearly so much. (I know a great many young women who had a tantrum after that scene aired, since the “real” Jane would never consent to lying in a man’s arms and kissing him ever, much less knowing he was married!) That is the one instance in which Mia did an exceptional job, as she pried Edward’s hands off her and fled the library, after listening to his tearful appeal for her to remain.
This is why I like and admire Jane so much, because I would like to hope that in her situation I would have the strength to do as she does, to turn and walk away from temptation even though it almost kills her. She is the saint of the story to Edward’s brooding darkness… a man who was dealt a bad hand in life and chose wrongly to pursue “pleasure” out of his bitterness. Yet even with his faults, and they are numerous, ranging from his immorality to his excessive rudeness, there is a good side to him as well — had he been a lesser man, a less kind man, he might have easily rid himself of the problem concealed in the attic, a problem that prevented his happiness with Jane and drove them apart, a problem she might have never discovered. Edward could have gotten away with it, an unlocked door, an open window. He would not have even had to push the problem off the roof — and he attempted to save her nearly at the cost of his life, his “problem.” What he attempts to do to Jane is almost unforgivable yet we find a sense of happiness in their eventual reconciliation.
What’s your favorite adaptation? Do you like Edward or despise him? Sound off below. I’ll be in the living room watching the miniseries…