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.