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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

BBC Jane Eyre 1973 Review

Thisbeciel found this while... studying for her final. Yes. That's what she was doing. It is always nice to hear about this production, which I remind readers is set for release in June, only 33 years after it was produced by the BBC. Also, note: the production is actually in 5 parts but the first part was not shown in the United States.

The New York Times
July 21, 1982

THE idle question comes to mind with the start tonight at 8 o'clock of a four-part dramatization of ''Jane Eyre'' on WNET-TV, and it asks whether anyone reads the Charlotte Bronte novel in its print original anymore [emphasis mine].

Certainly ''Jane Eyre'' has over the years become almost as familiar on film and television. Its attraction for those who work in eye and ear is obvious, what with the story's linear development and exterior action between people, that is, its lack of dependency on interior thought in one person's mind. Its language is a mannered, ornate English that can only delight a performer and a listener. Also, a general spookiness and a tendency toward catastrophes do not hurt in this respect.The new series, made by the BBC, brings us this 19th-century melodrama about caste and class in old England and about the steadfast honesty of a young woman seeking happiness while out to do the right thing. It is impeccably done, to judge from the first part, and appears to be faithful to the book, but perhaps because of this faithfulness it does not catch fire. It is an enactment from the book, and one must judge for oneself whether to honor or deprecate it for its literary fidelity.

As its heroine, Sorcha Cusack makes an uncommonly strong, yet reserved, Jane. She is not pretty but has a quiet beauty enhanced by a slight smile and an expression that is attractively quizzical. Her soft voice supplies bridging text from the book between scenes. Michael Jayston is craggily handsome and strong and more theatrical in his portrayal of Rochester, the imperious, troubled master whose service she enters and whose heart she captures.

The settings and casting are exactly what one imagines ''Jane Eyre'' should look like if translated from writing. Perhaps this series will encourage viewers to take the book off the shelf or, contrarily, it might have the effect of relieving them of guilt for not having read it. They will already know how it all works out.

Note on picture- yes, that is indeed a moth perched on Mr Rochester's palm! And as for fidelity to the book making it not 'catch fire' (...what doesn't catch fire in this film?!) I will say that I first saw this production after having watched all of the other, commercially available films of JE. I was very critical by that point, and skeptical. And yet I experienced bliss in hearing such poetry, and seeing such fine acting from almost the entire cast. I had just finished presenting a paper on Mr Rochester for a Bronte seminar, and I was literally amazed to see what I had discovered actually visible in Michael Jayston's performance. I was stunned. The first episode also contains a hint, setting up a very subtle correspondence. In the 'missing' first episode, there is a scene at Lowood where vignettes of the classroom are shown. One of these is of Miss Temple giving a geography lesson, just before we leave her to move on to another class, she begins to tell the girls about the Sargasso Sea, near Jamaica.

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