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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Jane Eyre 1970 Remastered


Thanks to my Cornish correspondent for the tip, this version of Jane Eyre, starring Susannah York and George C. Scott has been digitally remastered and is set for a May 8th release in the UK. This is good news because I have a copy of the film before said remastering and there's nothing more awful. I have a wobbly copy of the 1952 version which is far better, for not only are there scratches- large scratches- on the film, and the colour has darkened severely, a scene or part of a scene at least are missing entirely. I don't know if this can have been corrected. It is my understanding that the surviving reels were damaged. Scratches can be fixed but not lost footage. We shall see...

Or rather, some of you shall see. For my part, I won't be buying this. It is the worst version of them all, in my opinion. I don't mean to offend those who cherish it, but I find it difficult to sit through. Jane really seems a pathetic creature in this film, and I often wonder if Rochester is an animate being; he spends so much of his time staring blankly at the ceiling. But then he nods his head, or blinks, to show he is indeed alive. And then there's that time he threw a glass across the room in a sudden burst of rage at Jane during one of their chats. She didn't mind because, she doesn't have a shred of self respect. But the primary memories I have of this film are: St.John Rivers grasping Jane on the moors, staring at her with his smoldering black eyes and gasping "I need you, Jane! I need you!" He is more moved by Jane's piano playing than Rochester is for the duration of the film, which leads me to memory number two: Ferndean. Jane sits next to him in the garden, he realises she is there and acts like she had just come back from the store with some sugar for his tea or something. Naturally, she is disappointed, I think, that he isn't more pleased to see her: "Maybe I should have gone with St.John".

The horror... But, see it by all means, do. But do excuse me, please.

Wait, it does contain one of my favourite unintentionally hilarious scenes of Brontedom. Mr Rochester, after he tells Jane how he loved Bertha 'every bit as much as I love you now' goes into detail about how nasty asylums can be:

Mr Rochester: Have you ever been to an asylum? ...

(cut to: ...everyone having left during his long speech)

Mr Rochester: Jane? Jane?!

(runs through the whole house which seems completely empty- giving the impression that everyone had finally had enough of his bad acting).

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to say that the criticism you do for George C Scott's acting is mostly justified (however, he plays well in the after-the-fire scene, singing scene and proposal scene), and still I liked this version more than that one with Timothy Dalton. I find that Zelah Clarke's acting is even worst than that of Scott's: Z. Clarke does not have any of the fire, intelligence, or repressed passion of Bronte's heroine; it is hard to understand what her appeal is; she looks dumb and submissive most of the times; in the fire scene she has some silly looks all the time (augmented maybe also by the silly bonnet), and in the proposal scene, she makes such long pauses between sentences that you almost fell asleep. Again,I do not want to offend any of the viewers who enjoyed the Timothy DAlton-Zelah Clarke version, I just want to express my opinion.

Brontëana said...

I agree with your view of Zelah Clark's performance. I understand that there are a lot of people who cherish this version who think that Zelah was not a convincing Jane as well. I believe she is one of the reasons I seldom watch this version either. Not only is she lacking spirit most of the time, she oddly becomes hyperactive once she is in Morton with the Riverses! However, I'd still say she is more acceptable than George C. Scott.

Anonymous said...

I guess we might just say that both of them are equally bad :)

Hopefully Toby Stephens & Ruth Wilson will do much better in the new movie. Their photo is promising at least.

Brontëana said...

I thought about it, and I suppose you're right. I think the reason Clark's woodeness (for lack of a better word) doesn't bother me as much as Scott's stoicism is that I can delude myself into thinking this is Jane's shyness while stoicism simply is not at all like Rochester. ;)

My one fear is to see ham acting. I hear that there's a thought going around that it is not possible to play Rochester with any subtlety (I can't remember where I came across this. In the Bronteana archives I have all of the interviews with actors who have played Rochester so it might be from one of them). Our last JE was about as subtle as one of those giant inflatable gorrila balloons with "happy birthday!" written on it. ;)

Anonymous said...

I can't agree with you about Zelah Clark's portrayal at all I'm afraid. I think she manages to capture Jane's inner struggle beautifully; I don't find her wooden at all. The only part that doesn't ring quite true to character for me is the glee she expresses when she's talking to her cousins after discovering their connection. But each to their own. I don't like the George C Scott version much at all, although I know some do. And some people love the one 'Jane Eyre' performance I can't abide - William Hurt's Rochester.

Brontëana said...

I'm assuming you're a different anonymous ;)

In the that particular scene her excitement is well played, but I don't find her to be the 'fire spirit' she should have been during the proposal. She's determined, yes, but not at all fiery. 'Wooden' is a bit farther than I wanted to go but I couldn't think of a word which describes the impression she makes on me. There were somethings I loved about her performance (which I cannot say for Scott's...), such as the detailed way she made use of her hands throughout. It was a subtle touch but wonderful- actresses seem to find it difficult to portray shyness well. Yet, overall I didn't warm to her as a Jane.

As for the version you can't abide, most people dislike it. I can see why this is, but it is a very interesting adaptation too. I wonder sometimes if it would have made a difference if they had left in certain scenes. I heard that they filmed, for instance, the gypsy scene but didn't use it. We don't see Rochester doing any of the things which are typical of the role, I think. And yet, this film is why I read Jane Eyre in the first place. It retained enough of the original's genius somewhere that I wanted to see the real thing.

Anonymous said...

I am the first "anonymous" again :)

It's nice to read different opinions and arguments for them. It seems that liking or disliking some actor/actress is finally very subjective. I tend to like the '96 and '97 versions more than the others, probably because they did try to bring some new insight to JE's book: in '96 version, Rochester is mostly brooding and unsecure, while in '97 version he is mostly proud and impetuous. I guess it's hard to play all the features of such a complex character in a film, you have to concentrate on few of them, you find most appealing (I mean, as actor or as director).

For me, Zelah Clarke overplayed the submissive and shy-parts; and she failed in portraying the "fire spirit" or the outspoken-ness that could atract Rochester. On the other hand, C. Gainsbourough looked much more convincing as a passionate-yet-very shy person (for example, via the eyes expression), while Samantha Morton played a lot the outspoken-ness of the character (which, again, is a good point in my opinion, because something should have been there to create interest in Rochester's eyes).

About the '83 miniseries, I did not see how a shy and submissive girl, as that depicted by Zelah Clarke could have captured the attention of such a man as Rochester. She looks more like Joan Fontaine's portrayal of Jane Eyre (which, according to some critics is not far from Rebecca-like character)

Anonymous said...

I'm the second anonymous (which was a mistake in posting, but for the fun of this thread,I'll keep to being Anonymous #2!). Actually, it's not the film I dislike so - but William Hurt's portrayal that I can't abide. There are some things in that version I quite like, including Charlotte Gainsborough's rather interesting Jane.

But I stand by my enjoyment of Zelah Clark. Maybe I have seen it so many times since 1983, that I now see it as a very subtle, moving performance.

Linda said...

I have this May 8 "digitally restored" version and it isn't digitally restored. The film is still dark and scratched. There are scenes missing that are present in the VHS.

Anonymous said...

My favourite version is the 1983 one due to Zelah Clarke. I think we misunderstand what being a "passionate" Jane is today because we live in a world that is so forward and aggressive. Violence is the norm. The time era of Jane Eyre was more formal and subtle despite the fact the human emotion still can be very intense from within the human soul. Zelah Clarke's performance is what I would expect from Bronte's time in history, dignified yet alive and full of feeling. I detest the C. Scott version. Both actors are too old for the part. York looks old enough to be Jane's mother, not an 18 year old teenager. Scott is far from a strapping 38 year old falling for refined ladies of marital age. If Zelah Clarke ever reads my comment, I wish to say "Bravo!". She is a mentor for fine etiquette for this role and teaches all women how to be ladies in a relationship. In this version she is also a good influence in keeping chaste in an immoral world.
I prefer Zelah Clarke to ANY who have ever played Jane Eyre!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am indebted to Zelah Clark for her very fine interpretation of Jane which helps in understanding the mores and traditions of early Victorian England. She also has great heart.

Mary said...

I totally agree with Anonymous (the one who left the last two reviews). I LOVE the Timothy Dalton, Zelah Clarke version of Jane Eyre. It is wonderful, and they are both wonderful actors!! The only discrepancy with the book is that T. Dalton is sooooo handsome! But I can overlook that!

Anonymous said...

I have recently read the book again, but it's been ages since I watched the George C. Scott version of Jane Eyre. I have, however watched the other rather recent versions, and my favorite which I never seem to tire of is Zelah Clarke's Jane who I envisioned when reading the book. Her appeal to me is the suppressed passion and intelligence of her character; Her vulnerability but her strength. To me her portrayal of the original Jane Eyre is almost uncanny. I only wish Zelah Clarke had made more films. Dalton I also found appealing, but have a bit of trouble picturing him as the homely, almost ugly Rochester of the novel. I will have to refresh my memory and watch the George C. Scott movie again.

Anonymous said...

I think that Zelah Clarke's acting was wonderful and Timothy Dalton was hard to beat too. I've seen ALL the versions and know the book verbatim. I think that times were very different back then and like one of the other comments made...Jane wouldn't have been so forward or demonstrative given the age in which she lived. Even wealthy women were subject to their families and by all accounts position, wealth, and titles were the thing, not love. Women had to wait for a man to come calling...there wasn't any of the brashness we see today. An unmarried, female orphan was at the mercy of the whims of others and with no money or family connections, she HAD to be modest and above reproach because her reputation was her most important asset and I think Zelah hit the nail on the head. If you do any research on the way people lived back then, I think it might shed some light on Jane's demeanor and character. For her to want love was very brave considering her chances of it were pretty slim. Most women could only hope to be married and have a comfortable life and love was something that came after marriage. And as for Mr. R. falling for her, she contrasted so much from his first wife that it's a no brainer he'd fall for her...and I think Zelah pulled it off. I like the newest version too, but it doesn't follow the book as closely as a purist like me would wish, and I think it's okay for those who've never read the book, but they're missing out. My niece just recently saw Z.C. and T.D.'s performance and decided it was time to read the book because she'd only seen the latest movie and now wanted to go back to the source and read for herself. But I think at the end of the day, what we see in our mind will never be satisfied by a movie anyway. A movie cannot capture the "voice" of the author like it does in a book.