Movie Night: Orphans and Psychopaths

I had an enjoyable evening watching two new productions based on great novels, Jane Eyre and The Robber Bride. Actually, I’m not sure “enjoyable” is the right word for my experience of watching part one of the latest adaptation of Jane Eyre. I should have known something was wrong when the opening scene depicted young Jane wandering among  dunes in a great sandy desert. The scene shifted to her reading a book with pictures of steamy, exotic places. Whaaa? So much for Bewick’s History of British Birds and the lonely, storm-tossed northern seabirds.

Things didn’t improve much after that. The gothic imagery, music, and even Rochester’s brooding seem forced and cliché. I’m still not sure about Ruth Wilson as Jane, but Toby Stephens’ muscle-bound, swaggering Rochester, though not as bad as some, is definitely a miss for me. The worst part, though, is the re-writing of the dialogue. The screenwriter actually has Rochester, and then Jane, use the word “youngish,” three times in rapid succession. Youngish?!Oy vey. In the same scene he mentions the duel with Céline Varens’ cavalier: “I shot him—in the shoulder or some insignificant place.” How dull! Compare that with the original: “Next morning I had the pleasure of encountering him; left a bullet in one of his poor etiolated arms, feeble as the wing of a chicken in the pip…” I don’t understand the point of adapting a book and then not using the author’s words, especially when they are so superior.

But pay no attention to me. I seem to be the only person on two continents who dislikes this production so thoroughly. BrontëBlog has collectedover ascore ofglowingreviews from critics on this side of the pond. I will watch the conclusion of this production but as an antidote I am re-reading Jane Eyre, which I thought to do this year anyway. So far it is as wonderful as ever.

The Robber Bride was much better done, I thought. It starred some of my favourite actresses, Mary-Louise Parker, Wendy Crewson, and Amanda Root (who was Anne Elliot in Persuasion), and the whole cast was excellent. I noticed they cast an aboriginal actor as a police officer, which was refreshing because nationality was completely irrelevant to her part. I can’t say much more about the movie since it’s been a while since I read the book, but I definitely recommend watching it if you get the chance.


13 comments on “Movie Night: Orphans and Psychopaths

  1. Dorothy W. says:

    Hmmm — I'll be interested to watch Jane Eyre when I get a chance, but I wonder … bad dialogue could kill it. It's good, though, if it encourages you to read the book again!

  2. Sylvia says:

    And I'm certainly in favour of any production that inspires watchers to become readers. Adaptations of classics are really what got me started on literature. If this Jane Eyre sells more books, more power to it!

  3. Susan says:

    What got me about the JE dialogue was how predictable it was, just standard issue cliched writing that you've heard in countless other movies. But watching it did make me want to re-read the book, so that's a good thing.

  4. turtlebella says:

    Yes, well I think I will skip the JE movie and go straight back to the book. Haven't read it since high school and it's LONG since time.
    But I am very interested to see The Robber Bride adaptation, which I am so out of the loop that I didn't know it existed.

  5. Danielle says:

    Oh no. I am one of those awful saps (my words) that really enjoyed it. I know I am not very critical in my reading, and now it must follow that I am the same in my watching! I have read the book, but it has been a while–so I didn't clue in to the very different uses of language (though that opening scene was kind of odd). I admit I am looking forward to seeing part 2 and I plan on buying the DVD. I have pulled it out to reread–will have to see if I catch the differences in the dialogue. Now you know, so you can always skip the other part and just enjoy the book again!

  6. Sylvia says:

    Well, I'll definitely watch the second half because I am, after all, a Jane Eyre fan. The reviews say good things about the second half so I am keeping an open(ish) mind about it.
    I think you'll enjoy revisiting the dialogue in the book. Their intelligent verbal sparring is a big part of their relationship.

  7. Arethusa says:

    Has there *ever* been a good adaptation of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights? I feel as if those books are “unfilmable”: the elements that make them work as books would look ridiculous on-screen even with good directors.

  8. Sylvia says:

    Hi Arethusa! I must admit I am quite fond of the A&E version of Jane Eyre. They make good use of voiceovers, which is appropriate since the book is written in the first person. And Ciaran Hinds is just superb as Rochester. What an amazing actor. I could watch him all day. A&E did cut out some major plot points but I think they did a good job of preserving the characters. I prefer that to the other way around.
    The first mistake directors usually make with Jane Eyre is to cast a good-looking young man as Rochester. When they do that you know they didn't get the story at all.

  9. Imani says:

    Ooooo Ciaran Hinds. He was Julius Caesar in “Rome” and a very magnetic one indeed.
    I caught a part of the A&E Jane Eyre adaptation but as it was somewhere in the middle I didn't stick with it.
    I agree about the miscasting of Eyre and Rochester–neither of them should be hotties but movie people's idea of “plain” is Toni Colette or Samantha Morton.

  10. Sylvia says:

    I wish I could see “Rome.” My library doesn't have it. 😦
    Hinds definitely has something that pretty-boy actors probably can't even conceive of. I do believe it inspires a “Take me now!” attitude among discerning female audience members. Must be because he's Irish (says she who is 1/4 Irish).

  11. Stefanie says:

    I was bothered by the opening desert scene too. My husband and looked at each other and said, “huh?” Then since we have two PBS channels here were thought we had the wrong one so changed it to find that we had been on the right channel after all. Both Jane and Mr. Rochester are too good looking in this version. I agree with you Sylvia that Hinds makes a much better Rochester.

  12. Imani says:

    Oh Sylvia you must, must request it at your library, if only to ogle Hinds as he gets all..dictatorial. It's very very good tv even if it sometimes drops the ball on historical accuracy (and is very, very mean to Cicero. Great politician here he is not.). Heck, it got me to read about Augustus.
    Stefanie how hilariously awesome that you actually changed channels because you and your husband thought it was the wrong show. That about sums that Eyre adaptation for me in a nutshell. I'll pass.

  13. Sylvia says:

    Ogling Emperor Hinds sounds like a plan. I'm sure the librarians here will go for it. 😉
    That's pretty funny, Stefanie. I wonder what surprises await us in part two?

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