Jane Eyre (1983)

I’ve just finnished watching the BBC Masterpiece Theater adaptation of Jane Eyre, and I must say that for the first time, I’m sadly disappointed with the BBC; as a general rule, I find their film adaptations far superior to any other.
First off, who’s idea was it to cast Timothy Dalton as Mr. Rochester? I have a feeling I’m alone on this one, but his performance just did nothing for me; it was far too overdone. He’s either far too rough, or far too overly dramatic.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way: the first few scenes are, I think, the best; they depict Jane’s Gateshead life accurately. Once she reaches Lowwood, things start to deteriorate pretty rapidly; Jane’s relationship with Helen is underdeveloped (to say the least); Miss Temple is slightly too severe, and we never really get a true sense of her impact on Jane’s life as a maternal figure. The one exception is, perhaps, the scene directly following her marriage, when she promises to write to the girls as they bid her farewell.
Every aspect of the story from the point at which Jane arrives at Lowwood to the final episode just seems far too rushed; quite a bit is glossed over, especially concerning Adelle and, later, jane’s arival at Marsh end and the discovery of her relationship to the Rivers’s; plot-wise, the details were tied together sloppily in my opinion. They seem to have endeavored to remedy that problem with the occasional interjection of voiceover, but even that was so infrequent as to be jarring and awkward–like an afterthought or trying to watch the film with someone’ who’s read the novel and is hurriedly trying to fill in the gaps.
The only element with which I was really pleased, aside from the first few episodes, was the adaptation’s treatment of Bertha; it manages to heighten the suspense for cliffhanger effect while also highlighting the gothic element of the mysterious madwoman of thornfield Hall. I was intrigued by the fact that directly after Mrs. Fairfax shows Jane to her room, we hear the chilling laughter, and to an audience unfamiliar with the story, it might seem as if she herself is the culpret; for who else could it likely be, at this point?
Then, of course, there’s the moment just before Bertha flings herself from the battlements: “I hate you! I hate you!” Charlotte Bronte never tells us precisely what Bertha shouts–and we’re left to assume that it’s just the unintelligible ravings of a madwoman, but we know, if we read closely, that Bertha can speak; Mason indicates as much. yet we can’t really say that Bertha has a voice because she’s never permitted to engage in any dialogue herself; all of her dialogue is recounted after the fact by the individual with whom she had spoken–be it Rochester, Mason, Grace, etc. Now, she does have a voice of her own, even if it is only to declare, with her dying breath, how much she despises her husband (which we could probably have deduced anyway…people typically don’t enjoy being shut away in an attic for an indefinite period of time).
In short, not the BBC’s best work.

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