How Many Janes in an Eyre?

Somewhere out there in BBC Headquarters, a board meeting is taking place…

The head executive gesticulates with his trusty laser pointer at a series of PowerPoint projections: “Gentlemen! When was the last time we released a new version of Oliver Twist?”

“Why…I say! Not since the Year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and ninety-nine!”

This response from a brave audience member causes quite the mustache-twitching, monocle-raising uproar. To which the headcheese replies: “Well gentlemen…you know what to do.”

So out of the towering turrets of BBC Headquarters, the world is blessed with yet another version of the boy who wants some more. God Bless the Queen! (A note to all British readers: directions for sending hate mail could be found on my About page).

In 2006, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre received the BBC’s reincarnating touch. You won’t get a complaint out of me—many a times I’ve dreamt about being Jane Eyre. What young girl wouldn’t want to be the lone governess of Thornfield Hall and catch the glowering eye of the darkly erotic, wildly erratic Mr. Rochester? The unpredictable mood swings… The untamable sideburns… He’s the catch of the nineteenth century!

What wouldn’t an orphaned governess do for this Heathcliffian god? Would she play babysitter to his illegitimate French daughter? Oh yes! Would she ignore the small fact that he’s keeping his mad, strong-as-bull wife locked up in the attic? She probably would.

So what if Rochester’s wife tried to set a sleeping Jane on fire? A good romance is not without its complications…

This new version has all these classic elements but with better cinematography than my poor mind could dream up. The new Jane (Ruth Wilson) is more luminous than plain which is how I’ve always envisioned Jane Eyre. It is a truth universally acknowledged that if the heroine is described as plain in a book, her movie counterpart would be beautiful.

Although Toby Stephens is younger than your standard Rochester, he makes up for his youth with a face so chiseled you’d think he was the spawn of Willem Defoe.

In 2000, the musical version of Jane Eyre debuted on Broadway.

Although unseen by me (I have listened to the soundtrack), I can only wonder if composers and lyricists were able to capture the definitive passion between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester.

I had my doubts, but I guess I was wrong.


2 thoughts on “How Many Janes in an Eyre?”

  1. great post! i love this bbc version, beautifully shot–though yes, jane is not plain. but not some hollywood nymph either. so we can overlook that. have you seen the latest bbc version of north and south? book by elizabeth gaskell, worth checking out.

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