As a child I loved the 1944 film version of Jane Eyre with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, and of course a very young and beautiful Elizabeth Taylor in the role of Jane’s tubercular childhood friend, Helen Burns.
This black and white version is very ‘noir’ – perfectly highlighting the gothic elements of the story and particularly the harshness of Jane’s upbringing at the orphanage. I’ve seen this version many times (and still cry when Helen Burns goes ‘home to God’).
My next encounter with Jane Eyre was reading the novel itself. This has to be one of my favourite reads of all time, and I love the Folio Societyedition I read with its beautiful illustrations from woodcuts by Simon Brett:
I was very excited when a film version with Charlotte Gainsbourg came out, who I could happily look at till the cows come home. For some reason though, I now can’t remember much about this film, or whether I liked it or not – so it can’t have made much of an impression. (A bit like the Balenciaga perfume which I also wanted very much to like, because of Charlotte Gainsbourg and for its bottle, but it just does nothing for me).
On Friday I dragged myself out of my sick bed (ok, so maybe that’s a bit melodramatic!) to see the new film version of Jane Eyre on its opening night.
Reader, I LOVED this film. Mia Wasikowska comes the closest I have seen to portraying the spiritedness and intelligence of Jane Eyre, and Michael Fassbender was the perfect Mr Rochester, if a little too much on the handsome side of ugly to fit the book description: ‘I knew my traveler by his broad, black eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the sweep of his black hair. I recognized his strong nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw—yes, all three were very grim. I saw his figure, now without a cloak, was athletic, though neither tall nor graceful.‘
The moors were beautifully photographed, and I loved that Jane Eyre had a slight Yorkshire accent. There were a few things that went by a bit quickly (Jane’s schooldays, and the ‘meet the mad wife’ scene), and I thought the oddness of the house and Jane’s suspicions of Grace Poole being the midnight screamer needed fuller treatment. There were also a few minutes where it all went a bit soft focus, as Jane and Rochester frolicked about scattering rosepetals or some other such romantic shenanigans, which it could have done without. But overall I enjoyed this version version very much, and its emphasis on the mystical and otherworldliness of Jane Eyre.
I cannot say which is my favourite version of Jane Eyre. Ultimately it must be the book, but I cannot choose between the 1944 or 2011 film versions. I will have to see if this current version stands the test of time, and if I would choose to watch it over the 1944 one in ten or twenty years time?
It’s available in three sizes, mini (£10.99), ultra, and ultra classic (both £14.99) and features a reproduction of the original manuscript of Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë’s signature. I’ve not seen it in the flesh as it were, but it’s on my stationery wishlist. Maybe this will be my favourite Jane Eyre?
Which is your favourite Jane Eyre? Are there other versions, TV or film, that I should seek out?
This is a non-sponsored post. The film stills come from various websites, I’m sorry I forgot to note down the sources to credit them.