Jane Eyre (2006)

Jane Eyre
Ruth Wilson (Jane), Toby Stephens (Mr. Rochester), Francesca Annis (Lady Ingram), Georgie Henley (Young Jane)

Directed by Susanna White (Bleak House)

Summary: Badly mistreated as a girl, Jane Eyre grows up to become a governess in the household of the dark and mysterious Mr. Rochester. Dude, who's that in the window? Never mind, love, come sit by me...

First up, let me say I'm glad Georgie Henley is growing out of how much she reminds Keven and I of Ilsa. She's older now, but seeing her mistreated as young Jane still wigged me out, especially since Ilsa's recent hair chopping has made their resemblance more pronounced.

I will classify this BBC adaptation as Naughty Jane, because whoa, thar be sexin' ahoy. Most of the novel's more tedious portions--Jane's wretched childhood and her stint with amnesia among her cousins--have been set aside in favor of very steamy scenes between Jane and Rochester. This fan vid on YouTube highlights most of them.

The issue I've always had with Jane Eyre is her long-suffering goodness. The terrible imbalance of power between Jane and Rochester makes me go GAH. But Ruth Wilson does a great job of showing Jane's strength through silence, her internal compass of right and wrong, and her very human reactions to jealousy and loneliness. And Toby Stephens, the flip side of the coin, portrays Rochester as fickle because of his inherent instability. He's a complete headcase, restless and tormented where Jane is at peace.

Never did I get the impression that Rochester could outsmart Jane or seduce her without her cooperation because Stephens' portrayal steals his certainty. He's arrogant, but underneath that arrogance he's freaked out by his attraction to Jane, insecure in the face of her steadfast personality. And the finale by the pond, where she teases him rather mercilessly, is just brilliant. The power shifted between them depending on the situation, making the whole adaptation more satisfying than the book and more balanced than what I've seen of the four thousand other movie versions.

But dang, when Rochester turned on the heat...*fans self*

Undercurrents of abject lust made this one of the darker, more decadent 19th century novel adaptations I've seen (Bleak House, Pride & Prejudice, etc.). It positively rolls around in the smoldering, angsty, heart-rending pain of love. Austen is always good, but there is a lightheartedness to her secondary characters that livens the hot-and-heavy looks. Dickens used an excess of plot, and Gaskell wrote goody girls who fall for essentially goody guys. This Jane Eyre, however, revels in the Sisters Brontë and their trademark darkness--just short of Hardy, they were. But at least Charlotte let Jane have a happy ending.

This is quality, quality work, and one of my favorite Christmas presents. I look forward to years of happy rewatching.

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