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Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Reviews of Jane Eyre 2006

Well, the first professional reviews are coming in now. And the response is full of backhanded approval:

After parading his ignorance for us (and writing worthy of the Edward Bulwer Lytton Prize for terrible prose, masquerading as Bronte's), the writer of this article says the first episode is 'more concerned with arresting spectacle than nuances of dialogue.' He spends the rest of it describing hair and voice tone in minute but meaningless detail and ends the drivel with: 'Jane Eyre? Rotten book for ninnies ; enjoyable telly show.' I guess for having nothing better to say than Ruth Wilson can smile and Toby Stephens can ....smile as well, he really did enjoy it somehow but he could have fooled me.

This critic was also very disappointed:

Jane Eyre has a classic first-person narrator problem. The heroine is isolated and without a confidante. She can only pour her heart out on to the page. But what's she to do on TV? Voiceover is the obvious answer, but there seems to be an anti-voiceover fashion on TV just now. Certainly this adaptation has not solved the problem. Ruth Wilson, as any actor would, struggled to find ways of showing what was going on in Jane's mind. Charlotte Brontë's narrating voice in the novel helps one buy into the horse accidents, burning beds and mad maids in the corridor but, stripped of that voice, these incidents came over as the redundant plot furniture of gothic melodrama.

For all her love of Thackeray Brontë is not a great satirist and the crude writing and acting around the snobs was so ridiculous I longed for Jane to take the piss as adeptly as *Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennet would have. Francesca Annis brings a lot of stature to her snob, but no matter how much presence and restraint actors may have it does seem to be very difficult for them to resist the cliches of English period acting. Rochester's complexity comes over as a bit artful in Toby Stephens's hands. He is so changeable and his performance is like one of those token Sloanes who sometimes stroll into *Big Brother to become the victim of an entire nation's class resentment. Bad enough that Jane comes over as a morbid bore but add his Rochester and you're questioning why he's posing her a dilemma at all.

And I think this critic is seriously disturbed- oh the strange imagery!

The BBC’s Jane, on the other hand, is one hot 19th-century governess. She looks like a chick in a Magnum ice-cream advert. She’s got flawless skin, tumbling hair, perfectly sculpted eyebrows and a frankly extraordinary upper lip: a fleshy, kissable duckbill, which appears to vibrate lasciviously in moments of high emotion.

However — and thankfully for the auspices of the rest of the series — Ruth Wilson’s beauty isn’t being made into a big issue. She isn’t going around being beautiful, if you know what I mean. She sits very quietly, and with a cautious stillness — as, indeed, would someone who’d spent most of their life in an evangelical Christian orphanage run by emotional sadists, and then suddenly found themselves living in a castle with a wolf, a sex-case and a mental.

Toby Stephens’s Rochester, meanwhile, while definitely not as tall as Rochester should be — he borders on Titchester, to be frank — is doing well as a sex-case living with a wolf and a mental. There’s a vulcanicity to him. He strikes you as an entity with hot, steaming vents on his lower flanks — even though, on unhappy occasion, his hair does fatally recall Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Vents? For what? Nevermind. I really don't want to know.


mysticgypsy said...

The vents imagery is very disturbing..I feel sorry for Toby..

siansaksa said...

I find those two reviews rather nasty and not well argued. I think we don't have to pay much attention to them. The reviews on the viewers on C19 board are much more positive

Laura said...

Although I agree that those reviews were quite nasty, I agree with the prioritization over dialogue - they completely changed it! I was still upset - although I tried to remain open-minded for the second viewing.

Sufficed to say, it's a very modern Jane Eyre...

Anonymous said...

For your downloading pleasure


Brontëana said...

to mysticgypsy:

She seems to have quite an imagination.

Brontëana said...

to siansaska:

Yes, but we have already heard what they thought of the programme. The Bronte fans are being far more tolerant than the professional critics, although I have come across some harsh fan reviews as well.

Brontëana said...

to laura:

I have still only seen clips but I got that impression as well. I love the language in the book. It is like a feast, but this is a bit like getting table scraps...

I have nothing against attempting to modernise JE, because you cannot avoid it. Adapations always say more about the time in which they are made than they do about the novel. But the catch is that if this programme has been so drastically 'modernised' the inevitable outcome is that in 10 years it will swiftly fall from 'modern' to 'dated.'

That is sooo 2006! etc.

Liz said...

I am trying to reserve judgement until I see next week’s ep! ;-)

It’s true that we all have our own idea of how a novel should be adapted, and nothing can ever match our imagination. But it is also becoming apparent to me that Jane Eyre is unique in that Bronte has written it, as it were, on a knife-edge – so that any changes when adapting must be in the same vein, or all is lost. Emphasise the melodrama a mite too much, and it becomes silly; make it a mite breezier, and it becomes dull and ‘not’ Jane Eyre. This adaptation is currently tending towards the latter state. But this is why I am (trying to) reserve judgement – it is no doubt the calm before the storm.