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Friday, October 20, 2006

Poor Jane

One of the books I will be using for my thesis is called 'Jane Eyre and What Adaptors Have Done to Her.' Here are two examples of precisely what these adaptors have done to her. It has been very interesting for me to witness the response to the newest version of Jane Eyre. In many ways I did not anticipate the ways people react to the novel and previous adaptations when they consider the newest incarnation. One of the surprises has been the belief that because the most recent adaptation is the most recent, it must be 'new' and 'fresh.'

One aspect of the novel which distinguishes it from other romances is that the relationship between Jane and Mr Rochester is not based on physical attraction. They do not lust after eachother as so many experts, and adaptors would have us suppose. And yet, there are but few adaptations that have not attempted to 'sex up' the book. I might be in the minority when I say this, but I find that the real passion of the novel evaporates when it is reduced to some exploitation, panting, and petting.

All of this is preface to the return of Patrick MacNee as Mr Rochester. I thought this was pretty bad until I saw the 2006 Jane Eyre's farewell bedroom romp (you know, the scene where Jane refuses to let Rochester kiss her because he's married? Or, maybe she lets him lie on top of her and pleasure himself. I can't remember, but chances are it is true-to-the-spirit-of-the-book /end sarcasm).



And then, half a century later, the very modern (or 50 year old, however you would prefer looking at it) idea of Rochester the lech:



There really isn't a point to me including the clip where Rochester says: "I want a wife. I want a wife in my bed all night or all day if we choose. If I can't have that I'd rather die."

43 comments:

griffin said...

This scene is in 2006? (and I thought 1997 was bad!) If Charlotte Bronte had written the scene like this, no one in the 19th century would have believed that Jane was standing for her principles or that Rochester was worth having. For that matter, I wouldn't have believed it, and I probably would never have picked up the book again. It just doesn't make sense with Bronte's intent. She's probably turning in her grave.
I suppose I should reserve my opinions until I've seen the movie all the way through, but I was really taken aback by this clip. I wasn't expecting BBC to handle the scene in this way.

Kathleen Bolton said...

Hi, I'm new to the blog and this may have already been observed elsewhere, but each generation has it's own spin, and right now in our hyper-sexualized culture, overt sexiness is in. It's hilarious to see the 1970's beehive hair styles in that version.

Having said that, I really didn't have a problem with the amped up sex in the 2006 version. "Marriage" "bride" "wife" is Victorian dogwhistle for sex. Jane and Rochester have a sexual attraction for each other AND they love each other's minds. For me, it's why the story is so enduring.

This version's the first one where I can envision this couple actually having a life beyond the book. Just my opinion.

Watty08 said...

When I was watching the 2006 version on Sunday night, I was surprised by the 'Don't leave me' Jane scene. It was unexpected but I had a feeling something like that would happen.

Writers do what bring somehing new to adaptions for their own genius if anything else. I didn't have a problem with the scene as I think it fit the moral dilema in the storyline. It worked for the audience the adaption was going for.

Liz said...

I find it hard to rationalise the 2006 bedroom scene, because I don't know what my motives are. Am I just trying to explain away something that is inadmissable because I find it, well, sexy? You are well within your rights to think so in this case. ;-)

Nonetheless, one of the purposes, I suppose, of looking at adaptations and their successes and failures is to consider the *intent* of the adaptor. Whether Welch succeeded or not, I think her intent was much more than 'sexing up' the book (although it was no doubt that as well).

Consider the context of the scenes, and how they contrast with the St John scenes that frame them. How are we supposed to compare St John's description of himself as cold inside with Rochester's telling Jane that she has a heart like a 'fist of iron'? I like to think that the whole dreamlike first part of the episode, starting with Jane wandering what is partly a psychic landscape, is coloured by her own feelings and development as a character. How far, then, can we take the bedroom scenes as *real*, and not coloured by Jane's sense of ferocious longing?

Moreover, there's much more to the scenes than just sex. Isn't there something rather menacing, smothering, about what Rochester does?

You say: "They do not lust after each other as so many experts, and adaptors would have us suppose." - alas, I respectfully disagree.

Kathleen Bolton said...

I agree, Liz. I think in this particular scene, Rochester is turning on all the guns to break down Jane's defenses. As the scene is blocked, it goes from a cold blue stone room to the warmth of a candlelit bedroom. Comforts, love, and the sexual attraction of the man she loves are what she gave up. I think the scene sharpened her dilemma for an audience who doesn't have the intimate familiarity with the book that we have.

I love that last bit where Rochester, knowing that he's failed to break her resolve, throws out that last bit about the sea-side cottage, desperately barganing. He's lost her and he knows it.

Brontëana said...

to griffin:

There are two of these scenes related as flashbacks. Actually there are three. The ending implies that they have sex on a river bank directly after the proposal (implies, mind you).

I agree with you, and I felt very disappointed when I saw it. The entire show seems to have no message besides 'all you need is love- and by love I mean sex.' They give a fair bit of time to the Rosamond/St.John relationship but it doesn't have anything to do with the story now that all of the discourse of inconugous marriages has been slashed. Looking at the last episode, I realised they had sexed up: Jane, Rochester, Adele, and Bertha... why not just put Mrs Fairfax in a kinky maid's outfit and give Grace Poole a bikini and get it over with?

Brontëana said...

to kathleen:

I agree that there is sexual tension between them but this is completely out of character for Jane at least, and as for Rochester- I have no faith in him after seeing this. Throughout the series it is very clear that he wants her body more than her mind. The first episode makes gestures towards her intelligence and we get a few chats but that's all. But that isn't really what disappoints me most since as you can see from the other clip, it has been done.

I found the whole scene really boring. The dialogue is poor, there's no tension left in the scene when Rochester is all over her (literally). When previous versions play the scene as written in the book there is a lot more erotic energy than we see here. To me the scene seemed like a cheap way to get more ratings for that last episode.

Brontëana said...

to watty:

My point was precisely that it was not new at all. Although you are absolutely right about the audience. Before the 4th episode aired, fans were already hoping for a sex scene somewhere.

I found the script did not clarify the delema well either. Rochester simply says 'I choose the wrong path. It wasn't my fault that I chose it but I must bear the blame for continuing on it.' Then they don't explain that the 'path' is a life of "heartless, sensual pleasure." Naturally, because if it were explained you would realise that he's more than happy to continue on that 'wrong path' which made him so miserable for 15 years.

cat47 said...

Even if the relationship between Jane and Rochester is not based on physical attraction, there is after all quite a lot of kissing and sitting on the knees in the book. I think this was Chralotte Brontë's way of suggesting the attraction was also physical.

That's why I thought this scene was not so unfaithful to the spirit of the novel. What bothered me more was that we were not shown the distress of Rochester when he understands that Jane will not be convinced.

I think it a little bit harsh to compare the scene to this awful piece with Patrick Macnee, which is indeed completely untrue to the character of Rochester.

Brontëana said...

to liz:

I agree with you in part. Early on we heard that this version was highlighting 'Jane's sexual journey.' I don't think adaptations can 'fail' really. I have seen some terrible ones but so far I don't think I've come across one that I would consider a failure as a whole.

To be honest, I did not find anything smouldering about him in this scene. As I said in a comment above, I found it boring because they had released all of the erotic tensions. I didn't find anything new about the scene whatsoever.

And you're also perfectly right about audience. Before it aired fans were clamoring for a sex scene and they got what amounts to one. So they have certainly succeeded in anticipating what their audience wants to see.

But, again I say, it's been done.

Brontëana said...

to kathleen:

You have a point about the lighting, but I must confess that the cottage thing made me laugh. The dialogue seemed really silly to me.

Brontëana said...

to cat:

I was disappointed with them leaving out his distress. The tension of the scene was really dissipated by all of the sex. I found it boring.

Why is the MacNee clip out of character for Rochester while the other is not? Listening to the arguements above, I suppose I could say that there is some erotic tension in those early scenes so they just made it more apparent.

mysticgypsy said...

"How far, then, can we take the bedroom scenes as *real*, and not coloured by Jane's sense of ferocious longing?"

Great question Liz! I was pondering this myself. Especially because the "bedroom" scene is in fact colored, for it is red. Hence another connection to the red room, and young Jane's dream scene where she's wearing a bright red dress.

Thus, we cannot be certain about the authenticity of the bedroom scene, whether it existed entirely in Jane's imagination or otherwise.

ChrisV said...

I also was fairly disappointed that the scene prior to Jane's leaving did not include the passion and angst that is in the book. We didn't get a sense of the real pain he was experiencing in his knowledge that Jane would leave as well as Jane's struggle to remain firm in her decision.

I would say that the adaptation in general has been disappointing in its lack of actual dialog from the book. I don't think that the original dialog sounds dated or out of reach for modern viewers. In fact, it seemed that some of the more "modern" passages of the adaptation were mere summaries far removed from the more expansively and expressively written counterparts in the book.

So, the scenes themselves did not bother me as much as the thought of "that's it"? Watching it with my husband who has not read the book (yet), I explained that there was so much more to this scene than portrayed.

I also agree that the bedroom scene in question could have been the embellished product of Jane's painful recollection and longing. So much of her inner turmoil has been expressed through her dreams.

cat47 said...

The Macnee clip is out of character because the scene, if I understand correctly (i've seen only your clip, many thanks for it, btw) is set much earlier, before any proposal or mariage scene. Jane doesn't even know that Rochester loves her. And Rochester is not supposed to be a drunkard!!!

Brontëana said...

to mysticgypsy:

I tried to look at it that way but I couldn't convince myself. That would have been really good, I think, since she does have similiar dreams while she is at Morton- only they were always dreams of being reunited with him.

Brontëana said...

to chrisv:

Maybe I did not express myself clearly- you've put what I think exactly. In addition, it just wasn't anything new- which was the point of this post. They were making their relationship more physical 50 years ago.

Brontëana said...

to cat:

I agree completely, but I also think the 2006 is just as out of character. Rochester has tried a life of sensual pleasure and he felt degraded by it, Jane holds to her principles to preserve who she is. In this scene they both abandon themselves to a few moments of naked lust.

Glaukôpis said...

Ok, let's talk adaptation. What, honestly, is the point of an adaptation if it doesn't hold true some of the key elements of the story? What is so brilliant and moving and enduring about JE is that it's a passionate love between two people seeking "an original, a vigorous and expanded mind."

The BBC adaptation has its own "spin," yes, but at what point does that become its own different and separate story of romance? At what point is it more like Rebecca--a JE *inspired* story--rather than a JE adaptation?

Sexing it up may be all very well and good and entertaining, but it misses the entire point of that scene and, in some ways, the entire point of the book. That scene is about RESTRAINT. And it makes the emotions so much more passionate and vibrant and heart-aching, because the passion has nowhere to go. If they're practically having sex in an actual (rather than a metaphorical) way, then the restraint is gone, and the tension is gone. It's another scene completely, fit for another story.

The BBC adaptation might be very well and good in and of itself, but it's hard when they insist on calling it Jane Eyre while including such a scene.

Of course, I do think there is physical attraction between Jane and Rochester that grows from their spiritual attraction, but the point really is a meeting of two minds/souls/spirits/what have you. So yes, I too am a little offended when I see adaptations adding more sex. It's certainly not within Jane's character, and if Rochester debauches her, he hasn't really learned a thing from her or his past experiences, has he? And that's the point--Jane doesn't want him to later look back on her as he does Celine Varens.

Brontëana said...

to glaukopis:

Bronteana theory of adaptation: each adaptation is a different text. I don't think any of them "are Jane Eyre." They cannot be the book. What I love to do is 'read' the film and the book as intertexts and see what emerges. This new version in particular comes across are more fan fiction-y than most because much of the core of the novel is changed. It does seem more like a spin-off rather than a reading of JE.

I like how you explain how the physical attraction comes about. I've heard some people saying that they can't imagine the story working if Rochester isn't handsome and I think it is because they have shifted the emphasis so much on lust. It is more erotic when it isn't based on lust! It doesn't make sense to most adaptors, I think.

eyris said...

I can accept that this scene could be interpreted as one of Jane's dreams because of its placement. However, since there was not a decent confrontation scene before Jane leaves it comes across as a substitution for that, and doesn't address the crucial issues adequately, IMO.

ChrisV said...

Sorry for the repetition. I guess I just got into my thoughts too much while typing :-D I guess a simple, "I agree" would have sufficed :-)

Although I do not agree that the 2006 version is as leacherous as the McNee. ;)

livvie said...

I love the fact that if it's a truly unattractive Rochester, then EVERYONE agrees that the sexed up bits are unnecessary and an enormous departure/reworking of the story. Or if you like, "completely untrue to the spirit of Rochester."

However, when the actor playing Rochester is a handsome man that women can swoon over, bring on the sex! Then the 'erotic' and 'sensual' elements are just fine, and no one has a problem with them.

Except for those of use who prefer to see Jane Eyre as Charlotte wrote it.

livvie said...

Sexing it up may be all very well and good and entertaining, but it misses the entire point of that scene and, in some ways, the entire point of the book. That scene is about RESTRAINT. And it makes the emotions so much more passionate and vibrant and heart-aching, because the passion has nowhere to go. If they're practically having sex in an actual (rather than a metaphorical) way, then the restraint is gone, and the tension is gone. It's another scene completely, fit for another story.

I wanted to add that what glaukopis wrote above sums it up for me perfectly. Yes, there is sexual tension between them. JE is, for me, an extremely sexually charged book. But what produces that terrific amount of tension is precisely the lack of any sexual activity on their part within the book itself. There is banter and suggestion and longing and even kisses. All of which are wonderful--we've seen those in other adaptations, namely the '73 and '83--and in my opinion they're welcome. But when you jettison that restraint and tension entirely for a roll around in the sack you are not seeing Jane Eyre any longer, you're seeing Sandy Welch's Jane Eyre. Which, perhaps, they should have titled it.

Kathleen Bolton said...

I'm probably alone in this group about this opinion, but I liked this "sexed up" version, and I've seen pretty much all the interpretations, the McNee as Rochester the drunken roue version excepted. I compare it to the completely faithful 1983 adaptation with Dalton and Clark, and though I adored Tim Dalton's Rochester (he really looked and sounded like what I imaged Rochester to be), the dialogue was so stilted, the--dare I say it-- passion was so muted that by the end scene, the payoff was leached of emotion (I just watched again last night, btw).

I think there's space for a new interpretation every so often. It's what makes JE a classic. Shakespere's been interpreted about a billion different ways, I think JE can weather a few lusty scenes in "one" adapation without suffering.

Brontëana said...

to eyris:

I agree. I think the sexing up would have been less annoying to me if there had been more depth to the scene as well but since they chose to downplay those issues it did seem flat and- as I said- boring to me.

Brontëana said...

to chrisv:

No, no! Thank you for putting things more clearly that I could.

ha! I think I need to see the 1957 version again to be sure... I'm pretty sure they are both pretty lecherous. Toby gets more of Rochester's humourous scenes right and MacNee gets all of the ANGST. But both seem to be all about satisfying their physical needs.

Brontëana said...

to livvie:

There's a lot of that too. I mentioned this before the show aired. When the first photo of Toby Stephens as Rochester was released there was a sudden reversal of opinion of how well he would play Rochester. We had not seen a single nanosecond of his acting and yet people were proclaiming: "He'll be the best ever!" Over all I am very happy with his performance, but it is clear that most of the appeal is aesthetic. If he was an ungly man, it would not be so popular.

Brontëana said...

to livvie:

Yes, and my point is that most adaptations do try to make their relationship more of a sexual attraction, so the 2006 doesn't have innovation on its side.

Polly Teale's recent stage adaptation involved so much sex that a reviewer said that Bertha and Jane looked like they were going into labour at the mere sight of Rochester. So, you see, I'm really REALLY tired of all that.

Brontëana said...

to kathleen:

And now I offend the other half of my readers. *takes breath*

I agree- I didn't think the 1983 version was very passionate either. I found Dalton to be a lot of blank stares and grins. Oh dear. But if the dialogue was stilted what about: "we'll come together in the evenings for tea, and bowls, and something traditional"? Meh. I didn't care for the new dialogue in this case.

Actually, I think, from the comments, my readers seem to be on the fence about whether or not they liked the scene. Elsewhere I know the overwhelming majority adore the scene, but I'm not among them. I hope it doesn't sound like I am trying to dictate my view. I am only expressing it.

It is odd that we are having this discussion because my point was actually that it wasn't new to add this sort of explicit sexuality but I don't think I made myself clear enough. The 1997 version emphasised sex more as well, if you remember. Bertha trying to tempt Rochester by thrusting her breasts in his face, all of those open-mouthed dribbly kisses and panting, and finally "I know your passions are aroused!" Sure they didn't get into bed, but if you turned your head sideways... it looks about the same. ;) And in the musical, Rochester struts around rubbing his chest and flirting with the audience and Jane (he's a real minx).

Kathleen Bolton said...

No offense is taken! This is a great discussion. Literary criticism is full of divergent opinion, and so is film criticism. I'm just thankful I found a forum to air my views in a civil manner. :-)

Watty08 said...

This discussion is great and again I agree with idea that a book of importance is open to adaption which will forever be debated. Oh, we are all so passionate. It's so cool. Yes, I like the scene mostly because of my crush on Toby Stephens but I did find it someone unnecessary at the same time because of my interpreation of the novel. My Jane Eyre would never have let things go that far!

kayxyz said...

At least we know Toby borrowed his sideburns from Patrick McNee's example.

Anonymous said...

Bronteana, you mention in several places about fans clamouring to see a sex scene in this new version? Where (not the sex scene, the clamouring!)? This is not something I came across in the JE related boards I haunt.

I've seen almost all of the adaptations, and am not backward in getting cross or disappointed with something in all of them. (Don't get me started on William Hurt as a clinically depressed Rochester.)

However, these scenes didn't make me cross at all - instead, I found Sandy Welch's interpretation of Rochester's explanation for his behaviour at the end of ep three, and his pleading really fascinating. And moving.

Each to his or her own.

Brontëana said...

to kathleen:

A friend of mine finishing a phd in Renaissance literature once said that academia is just fandom for people who don't watch TV ;)

Brontëana said...

to watty:

Yes, that's one of the most enjoyable aspects of keeping this blog.

Brontëana said...

to kayxyz:

I think MacNee wins for wooliness, though. Hard to tell...

Brontëana said...

to anonymous:

On the imdb boards. Before the 4th episode aired a lot of people were hoping that there would be a sex scene between Jane and Rochester. It was discussed at length. Most of the active threads are about how sexy the whole thing was.

What explaination? I don't recall there being much of an explaination. It didn't move me at all. It seemed like the dialogue became secondary to foreplay.

Kathleen Bolton said...

My least favorite Rochester was Ciaran Hinds. His interpretation was so lame I found myself wishing Bertha had succeeded in burning him in his bed.

Anonymous said...

About that explanation or absence of it (I'm another "anonymous" by the way :): first I was also disturbed by the cheap dialogue put in there, but after a second view, we might say that somehow it works in this adaptation:

The mutual understanding between Jane and R. before the interrupted wedding went above words (as Jane was telling to Bessie at one point), so R. did not feel the need to excuse himself anymore (especially since he did not have any good excuse any way), so all that he tried in there was to convince Jane to stay (first, by appealing to her senses, and, ultimately, by offering her a platonic relationship, which might be seen as an ultimate proof of deep love for her as a whole person, not purely at physical level).

I guess my problem with that particular scene is more in its lack of logic: why on earth did Jane leave him after all? (and I refer to this adaptation, not to the book). If there is an explanation missing, I would say that this is the one that lacks IMO: clearly, Jane did not leave because of religion-based convictions (she doesn't seem too religious in this adaptation), and, also, not because she was upset with Rochester's betrayal or lack of confidence (otherwise she would have refused to talk with him at all).

Siansaksa

kayxyz said...

In the video game world, the 2006 mattress scene would get an F-. The mattress doesn't sink under their combined weight, and it should. Rochester's hair doesn't move when he horizontal. Video game designers take a course in math and physics to get the gravity effect correct, to make vid games more believable. Ms. Charlotte is probably spinning in her grave over this scene, but it's probably sexed up to sell DVDs.

Jo_42 said...

This scene is the one I have the biggest problem with, probably because it's my favorite scene in the book. And so many adaptations hack it to bits or completely rewrite it. (As I try to get visions of Cirian Hinds under a tree shouting "I can feel your passions are aroused!" out of my head.

But my main problem with this scene isn't the sex, it's the complete lack of tension. The whole thing is listless. Rochester is whining and Jane just lays there. What I love about the original scene is all the tactics Rochester tries, first ignoring what she's saying, then trying to argue her out of it, then coaxing, and finally brute force before he descends into sheer despair. Where is his mounting panic when he realizes that Jane won't give in? Where is her resolve that shudders and almost cracks, but in the end endures? Has it all boiled down to "You will think about the villa, won't you?" It ends up seeming small and shallow to me.

anitadc said...

Re: the scene from the Macnee version - it looks like he's about to rape her on the staircase. How she would stay in that house after that I can't imagine. And she's so calm! And how he basically fondled her breast with that walking stick - I can't believe they showed this on t.v. in 1957; it really made me squirm.