Miniseries review: Jane Eyre (1973), directed by Joan Craft, adapted by Robin Chapman
This five-part miniseries of Jane Eyre was done by the BBC in 1973 and it begins, like it should, at Gateshead. Jane is trying to read because it’s raining outside so she can’t go for a walk, but then John interrupts. Did I hear it correctly, that one of the Reed daughters says “she flew at Jack”? Erm, it’s John, not Jack? Either way.
Jane gets carted off to Lowood, where she befriends Helen Burns. There’s a scene with a red-haired girl whose hair curls naturally, and it gets cut off by Mr Brocklehurst who thinks it vain. Most adaptations seem to blend that girl with Helen Burns, but I do believe this is the way it was in the book: two separate characters. Helen, wise little one that she is, dies of course, and Jane grows up to become a teacher and eventually gets over to Thornfield.
In many ways, it very close to book. Not just from scenes and lines being similar or the same, but also some of the gestures described in the book, which I found quite remarkable. It’s also one of the rare adaptations that have Blanche Ingram not just wearing white but also having dark hair! Adèle also both looks and dresses like she’s described in the book. Michael Jayston with his guyliner, however, does not look like Rochester one bit.
I read somewhere that this was Sorcha Cusack’s first role. Is that why she’s walking around with her eyebrows pointing skyward all the time? She looks like she’s constantly surprised. Funny how eyebrows can be so distracting. There have been comments about a guy on Brothers & Sisters whose eyebrows do all the acting, and watching Harry Potter I keep getting distracted by Hermione’s constant waggling. This Jane Eyre seems to just be like a deer stuck in headlights. Also, for some reason, 24 seems to be a common age for Jane actresses. Cusack, Gainsbourg, Wilson …
One of the scenes from the book which has a tendency to be left our or changed a lot is Rochester as a gypsy. It’s not a long scene by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s there. You can tell the proposal scene is shot in a studio. The plants have wilting leaves from being left out too long, and you can hear noises from the crew in the background! When they finally kiss, it’s a bit meh, but Rochester goes at it pretty well.
There are many good points of this adaptation. For instance, I like St John Rivers – he’s stiff and so cold he’s slightly scary, which is the image I have of him from the book. Stiff as a board. It also has some bad points, such as the voiceovers. They’re good, give a feel of the book, but when they are there to show internal monologue at the same time the camera dwells on Jane’s face, it gets weird, because the voiceovers go on for too long. While the internal monologue might not be very long, when it’s a camera shot of Jane being asked something and she mulls it over in her mind for 20 seconds, with the camera focused on her face. It doesn’t work.
What does work, at least for me, is Rochester. Michael Jayston was apparently born and raised here in Nottingham, so that gives him a few bonus points as well, but even without that, his Rochester is not just a brute. He’s sarcastic but also has a humorous glint in his eye.
Stephanie Beacham (Blanche Ingram) was in Celebrity Big Brother this year apparently, and the people playing Richard Mason (Edward de Sozua) and Sophie (Anna Korwin) apparently played their roles more than once. De Souza was Mason in this one and in the 1996 version. I’d say his age was more correct for the role in ’73. Korwin did her French maid or nurse or whatever Sophie is supposed to be in ’73 and ’70. Recycling ftw!
It’s a lot better than the ’70 version (York/Scott), but not as good as the ’83 version (Clarke/Dalton). It’s an adaptation well worth watching, though. Listen out for the studio background noise during the proposal scene. Sounds like something is falling down or something like that. Perhaps you can figure out why Jane only has one facial expression – that of SURPRISE!