Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top 15 Literary Adaptations: #12

~No. 12 - Jane Eyre 2006~

Ruth Wilson as the titular heroine

Critics and journalists rant about the number of times Pride and Prejudice has been adapted for the screen, but there have been only two big screen adaptations ever made, and a scant handful of television adaptations - only two of which are available to buy today. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, however, must surely be one of the most frequently adapted classics in the canon of English literature. It has been one of the most popular English novels since it was first published in 1847, and out of all the Bronte oeuvre, it is probably one of the easiest works to adapt for film - certainly compared with Emily Bronte's notoriously difficult Wuthering Heights. Most Bronte fans will agree that we're yet to see an even moderately successful adaptation of the virtually unfilmable Wuthering Heights. That doesn't stop film-makers from trying, though. . .


But getting back to Jane Eyre: according to IMDb, there have been 21 film and television adaptations - make that 22, with the Mia Wasikowska-Michael Fassbender version due to come out  in March next year. But as of now, the BBC's 2006 miniseries is the most recent attempt to bring Charlotte Bronte's classic to the screen.

[I am not even going to bother including a plot summary in this review. Everyone knows the basic plot of Jane Eyre, and if you don't. . . go and read the book!!]


This adaptation of Jane Eyre had a peculiarly polarising effect on the Bronte-ite community. Some lauded it as the new definitive adaptation of the book. Others called it a travesty. I can't plant myself firmly in either camp - I have very mixed feelings about JE06, and can never quite decide whether to love or hate it. At present I feel more inclined to dislike it, but I may waver over the course of this review.

Pam Ferris as Grace Poole

One of the chief disappointments of JE06 (yes, I know it sounds dorky, and sorry if the constant references to "JE06" get on your nerves, but it's quicker to type than, say, "this adaptation of Jane Eyre") was the script by Sandy Welch (beloved of period drama fans for her work on North & South, Our Mutual Friend, and Emma). Ms. Welch's screenplay for Our Mutual Friend 1998 was good. Very good. I think she did a phenomenal job adapting Dickens' sprawling, complex masterpiece. And though she took some liberties with Elizabeth Gaskell's text, her screenplay for North and South was also good. On the other hand, as far as I'm concerned, the less said about the script for Emma 2009, the better. . . ya'll know my thoughts on that adaptation! (LOL, why am I talking like a Texan. . . must be all of you wonderful American friends I've made friends with via the internet ;-)


Charlotte Bronte had an extraordinary imagination, and a keen appreciation of nature. She may be famous for her novels, but Charlotte had the soul of a poet. She was one of those rare authors - like L.M. Montgomery, perhaps - who wrote prose as though it were poetry.

All this to say: mess around with Charlotte Bronte's beautiful words at your peril! Don't try to improve upon what is already close to perfection! I don't know why it is, and I know it's inconsistent of me, but I can forgive minor alterations to, say, Dickens' or Gaskell's dialogue in a screen adaptation, but attempt a complete reworking of Austen's or Bronte's dialogue, substituting numerous modern words and phrases, and - well - I will generally feel inclined to throw an apoplectic fit or something.

Toby Stephens as Edward Fairfax Rochester

In short, I was mightily disappointed with the screenplay for JE06 - most of the lines were contemporised to within an inch of their lives. But further than that, I was just disappointed with the direction of much of the series, and with the way many of the scenes were handled. Some of the time it almost seemed like they were making this adaptation based on what the public perception of "Jane Eyre" is, not on the book itself. Of course they didn't really, but that's how it felt sometimes. . . They almost missed the point of Jane Eyre. They lost the power and the poetry in the midst of the passion and melodrama.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh. This adaptation does have its strong points. I will now attempt to cease bemoaning JE06's shortcomings for a time, and extol its virtues instead.


*Ruth Wilson as Jane Eyre. One vital element of this story that many JE adaptations fail to emphasise (or else make a joke of by casting relatively "old" actresses) is Jane's youth. She was only a teenager, for crying out loud! Jane's character is an extraordinary blend of youth and vulnerability with an indomitable moral strength and steadfastness. Ruth Wilson captures this more successfully than most other actresses in the role have done, giving a picture of a young girl, alone in the world, who shows tremendous courage, and wisdom beyond her years.


*Toby Stephens, though not my favourite Rochester, is also good. He may not truly look the part (a redhead with a cheeky grin as the dark, brooding Mr. Rochester?), but he does an adequate job portraying the complexities of Rochester's character. (Hehe, I can hear the Toby Stephens fans starting to fume at me now. . . "Only adequate?!")

He and Ruth Wilson had great chemistry together, too. (TS fans: "Only 'great chemistry'?! You say it so casually. . . try unbelievable, out-of-this-world, earth-shattering chemistry!!"). I can sympathise. . . I'm bit of a Rochester fangirl, too - a different Rochester, though. I think most of you know who I'm talking about. . . ;-)


One thing that may bother some viewers, however, is the extent to which the dialogue between Jane and Rochester has been contemporised. I'm not just talking about the words, but the way in which the actors deliver the lines. Some would argue that this is not necessarily a bad thing - better to make the interaction between the two leads contemporary and relatable, than risk stiffness and insincerity in an attempt for period accuracy. But purists will find it hard to watch Jane and Rochester talking and interacting like a modern couple, rather than characters from the early 19th century.

Georgie Henley as the young Jane Eyre

*From a purely aesthetic perspective, this series is a treat. (Even though most of the scenes were not at all as I had imagined them to be from the book ,*grumbles to herself*.) This is a BBC big-budget costume drama and it's gorgeous to look at, right from the opening scene of young Jane walking across the sand dunes in her imagination, dressed in exotic costume. The score by Robert Lane is by turns haunting and sweepingly romantic.

*Georgie Henley is awesome.

Enough extolling virtues for now, here are some small niggles that bothered me:

Christina Cole as Blanche Ingram

*Yet another blond Blanche Ingram? Puhleese. . . and if they didn't make Imogen Poots' hair dark for Jane Eyre 2011, and we have another blond Blanche next year, I'm going to - I'm going to - I don't what I'm going to do, actually. Throw another apoplectic fit, perhaps.

*Ruth Wilson is too tall!! Jane Eyre is supposed to be small!!

*Rochester has ginger tendencies! (As mentioned above.)

*What in the world is up with the Rivers sisters being portrayed as silly, giggly girls instead of the mature, intelligent young women they are in the book? 

*St John isn't good-looking enough. Needs to get the Greek god thing happening a bit better.

*Why did they have to get rid of the library scene, and instead have Jane and Edward kissing - on a bed?! If you haven't seen this series, don't worry, it doesn't get any "worse" than kissing, but still - the real Jane would never in a million years have allowed this! In the book, after she finds out he's married, she doesn't let him touch her! 

Andrew Buchan as St. John Rivers

*JE06 does a good job bringing Jane and Rochester's romance to the screen, but it doesn't succeed so well in conveying Jane's development as a character whilst she's away from Rochester. Jane Eyre is first and foremost Jane's story - it's not just about the romance. Miss Temple - Jane's friend and mentor through her childhood and teen years - makes only a brief cameo appearance. And from memory - it has been a little while since I last watched this series - I felt that they could have given a completer, more accurate picture of St John Rivers, even in the limited screen time given to him. He's an important character - amongst other things, he is Mr. Rochester's foil. Edward Rochester is far, very far from being a perfect hero (indeed, there is a significant army of anti-Rochesterian readers out there), yet flawed though he may be, his warmth, generosity, and humanity contrast sharply with St John's coldness and self-righteousness. 


Summing up, it is the thought of what could have been that mars JE06 for me. The team behind this production had the budget, they had the creative vision (even if it didn't always totally align with my vision of the book), but in the end they came up with a flawed, somewhat hit-and-miss adaptation. It has its moments, but overall I was left feeling disappointed. On second thoughts, if I was so very disappointed, why on earth am I including it in my list of favourite literary adaptations? *Stifles frustrated groan*. I don't rightly know myself. . . Well, it is a powerful and entertaining Gothic drama in and of itself. And like I said near the beginning of this post, my feelings on this series tend to fluctuate a great deal. Sometimes I decide that I really do love it, other times (as now), I throw my hands up in despair and grumble that it is one of the most over-rated period dramas of recent years!  

Is it just me, or does this look like the exact same spot used for that scene in P&P05? (Scroll down to the very bottom of my blog.)

Bottom line is: watch it. Whether you end up loving it or hating it, (or else exist in a perpetually undecided state, like me), it is worth watching. Provided, of course, that you have read the book! If you haven't, please read the book first! Odds are, you aren't one of my younger siblings, so I can't force you to read the book first (unfortunately), but I still really really think it would be a good idea for you to read the book first.

And before I close this review, I should mention that there are a couple of scenes in this series that I fast-forward through. In any case, whether you fast-forward scenes or not, this series is really only appropriate for older viewers - teens and up. For a complete overview of any objectionable content, please read the Charity's Place review!

Edit: I've been struggling to verbalise this all through my review, but I'll try now. . .

All bookworms will testify to this - there are some books you read (especially when you're young) that leave a really deep impression on you. Sometimes you can't even figure out exactly what it is that makes you love x book so much. But somehow, it connected with something deep within you, and from that moment, that book will always be with you. Those are the books that you love and treasure always - those are the books that somehow become a part of you, and that mold and influence the person you become.

If a movie adaptation manages to capture a glimpse of that spark, that magic something that left such a deep impression on you when you read the book, then you know it's a good adaptation! It will probably be enjoyed by many (though not necessarily all) readers of the book, and it will hopefully induce many uninitiated moviegoers/TV viewers to check out the book.

This is ultimately the measure by which I judge film and TV versions of my favourite books - not by how faithful it is in letter to the book, or how long it is, or whether it was made on a large or a miniscule budget. . . 

And this is why I like the 1980 and 2005 versions of Pride and Prejudice better than the highly acclaimed 1995 series. It's also the reason why I don't love the 2006 version of Jane Eyre. But don't let that put you off watching it - it's a very well-made series, and is the second-best adaptation of Jane Eyre ever made, in my humble opinion. 

*Sighs*. . . What is it about us Janeites and Bronteites. . . we demand perfection in movie adaptations of our beloved P&Ps and JEs, and when those movie adaptations don't measure up to our impossible expectations, we spend countless hours criticising their faults on blogs, forums, etc. We're a cantankerous old bunch. . . I wonder how the rest of the world puts up with us? Dickens fans, for instance, are nowhere near as unreasonable as we are!

Must finish now.

Please share your thoughts on Jane Eyre 2006! Are you a fan, or a detractor - or are you caught in a state of perpetual indecision, like me? A Toby-Stephens-as-Rochester fangirl, or no? Any elements of this miniseries that you particularly loved - or hated?

~Most of the pictures in this post are from Fragilidad.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Caption contest, and An Announcement.

Only a few caption entries this week. I think I picked a photo that didn't lend itself well to this kind of thing. . . too many faces, too much stuff going on, I guess. 

And I am going to give this contest a break for a while. . . Janette, you were 100% right. ;-) This series is getting tired. It was fun for a little while, but the novelty has now worn off. . . And besides, it makes me feel guilty when there's only "caption contest" stuff, and no substantial posts. Even if I don't get the time to publish "epic", high quality posts regularly, that doesn't mean that I'm going to clutter up this space with relatively inconsequential offerings. All or nothing. Quality, not quantity, and all that.

And I am working on the next post in my literary adaptations series. . . it'll be up later this week, I promise. :-) In fact, it's all written out, I just need to type it up and get some photos together. . . tomorrow afternoon.


Wives and Daughters

1. Miss Browning: "Now, I think we should form a 'Red Hat Society' here in Hollingford."

2. Miss Browning (whispered to Hyacinth): "You really must get Molly some more fashionable clothing. She's the only one without a cloak or an elaborately ribboned hat - I'm afraid she rather sticks out like a sore thumb."

3. Molly (to herself): "Humph. Maybe I should invite Hyacinth's brother-in-law Onslow over for tea with the Miss Brownings. That would take my 'dear mama' down a peg or two!"

4. Miss Browning: "Did I mention that I am purchasing a cow from a local farmer, I always thought it was a very elegant sort of animal." Molly Gibson (low voice) "Very elegant." Miss Phoebe: "You didn't tell me that you were purchasing a cow."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friday Caption Contest (a day late - sorry!)

Anne of Green Gables
Elvira Evans: "Will you please inform Miss Shirley, Mr. Harris, that I am not speaking to her?"

Congratulations to Elisabeth for winning this week's contest!

Now, the new picture - an over-abundance of bonnets:

Wives and Daughters
Molly Gibson, Cynthia Fitzpatrick, Hyacinth Gibson,  Miss Browning, and Miss Phoebe - Wives and Daughters

Friday, August 20, 2010

Three new clips from the Dawn Treader!

We finally get a proper look at Will Poulter as Eustace! He is perfect. 

So far so good. . . however, the dragon island is different to how it is in the book. Here it looks dry and desert-like, rather than dark, misty, and foreboding, full of dark forests and fjords. (Well, maybe not technically fjords, but that's the kind of country it is in the book. . .)

The Sea of Lilies is beautiful. :-)

Clip #1 - The Adventure begins

Clip #2 - Greedy Eustace

Clip #3 - The Sea of Lilies (Thanks Melanie!)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Little Dorrit quotes

I thought I'd share a few wonderful quotes (well, I like them!) that I've found as I've been reading Little Dorrit. . .


Little Dorrit

[Flintwinch speaking to Mrs. Clennam] "The peculiarity of my temper is, ma'am, that I won't be swallowed up alive." (Chap. XV)


Little Dorrit

It is not easy to walk alone in the country without musing on something. (Chap. XVI)


Little Dorrit

Mr Henry Gowan, inheriting from his father, the Commissioner, that very questionable help in life, a very small independence, had been difficult to settle; the rather, as public appointments chanced to be scarce, and his genius, during his earlier manhood, was of that exclusively agricultural character which applies itself to the cultivation of wild oats. (Chap. XVII)

Who says Dickens isn't funny? He had a wicked sense of humour.


Little Dorrit

[At Pet Meagles' and Henry Gowan's wedding] Then Lord Decimus, who was a wonder on his own Parliamentary pedestal, turned out to be the windiest creature here: proposing happiness to the bride and bridegroom in a series of platitudes that would have made the hair of any sincere disciple and believer stand on end; and trotting, with the complacency of an idiotic elephant, among howling labyrinths of sentences which he seemed to take for high roads, and never so much as wanted to get out of. (Chap. XXXIV)

I love Dickens! The complacency of an idiotic elephant. . . kind of like myself just after I get out of bed in the morning. :P

~All pictures from Sharona Lee

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Caption Contest: voting now open

Anne of Green Gables
L-r: Elvira Evans,  Morgan Harris and Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables - The Sequel

There were some very funny entries this week. :-D  

1. Anne Shirley: "Well if you will not dance with us we will most certainly turn up our noses at you..."

2. Morgan Harris: "Ladies, must you drag me into this?"

3. Elvira Evans: "Will you please inform Miss Shirley, Mr. Harris, that I am not speaking to her?"

4. Elvira: "Harris, don't tell me that girl over there is THE Miss Shirley who wrote that outrageous piece of fiction with romance and baking soda in it!?!?"

5. Morgan: "I know, I'm still trying to decide which I want to dance with."

6. Morgan: "Hm. The temperature of the room between these two cold ladies is positively arctic!"

7. Morgan: "Where's Katherine Brooke when you need her?!"

8. Anne: "And, Mr. Harris, if you would so kindly tell Miss Evans that my name is spelled with an *e*, I would be most indebted to you!" 

9. Morgan: "Please tell me I am not in the middle of these two!"

10. Morgan: "The best thing to do is to ignore them, So I stay out of trouble!!"

11. Morgan: "Come now ladies, we can't ALL be like Mr. Darcy and take a bath in the nearest lake!"


Vote in the poll on my sidebar>>>

Remember, you can vote for as many captions as you like!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Caption Contest

Congrats to my sister Naomi, for winning this week's caption contest!

The Young Victoria
Albert: "Well if you want my advice on marriage, marry someone very handsome, possibly a man with a slight moustache, someone who dresses very well, oh - blue coats definitely, someone who wears blue, and someone who's very smart indeed. Come to think of it that sounds just like me. Just a suggestion."


The new picture. . . 

Anne of Green Gables
Unknown Woman (can't remember her character's name! Help!?!) Morgan Harris (Frank Converse) and Anne Shirley (Megan Follows), Anne of Green Gables - The Sequel

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Caption contest: voting now open

The Young Victoria

This week's entries:

1. "I just don't understand why you allow the dog to court you, and not me?" 

2. "Would you like me to take the ball so you can hold my hand? ...Well, it was just a suggestion." 

3. "If you don't want holes in your flower bed, maybe you should put your dog on a leash."

4. Albert: "Well I was thinking, if we brought in coffee everyone would think it more modern." Victoria: "Nope, tea or nothing."

5. "My dog likes top hats just as much as balls..." 

6. Victoria: *sighing* "What is it it Albert?"
Albert: "Well we could make this play..." *mumbles* "Called the play of Prince Albert and co." 
Victoria: *gasps* "And who am I!?"

7. Albert: "You might not know that I'm the tallest in my family..."

8. Victoria says knowingly/semi quiet: "I wouldn't hold my hand out like that if I were you."
Albert still rambling on: "I also am good at...What? Why?"
Victoria: "Me precious pup is staring at it and is ready to pounce."

9. Albert: "I have to keep my head perfectly tilted or my hat will fall off!"

10. Albert: "Throw that ball, so your darling dog would go away. I mean that in a respectable way of course. I'm sure she must be longing to chase after it!"

11. Albert: "I say, old girl, perhaps you could throw that ball for the dear dog and then you could concentrate on what I'm trying to explain..."
Victoria: *to herself* "I'm the old girl and the dog is the dear . . . . I should have known."

12. Victoria: *to herself* "If I throw this ball on his hat, maybe he'll stop talking . . . ."

13. Albert: "You know, the problem with carrying a ball around is that you might drop it into a pond. And then you might meet a frog...who asks you to kiss him...who's actually a handsome prince..."
Victoria: "And what's wrong with that?"

14. Albert: "If you do decide to throw that ball, you might want to take care not to throw towards the petunias. They are, somewhat, delicate little things."

15. Victoria whispers: "I'd like to shove this ball right down his throat!"

16. Albert: "Well if you want my advice on marriage, marry someone very handsome, possibly a man with a slight moustache, someone who dresses very well, oh - blue coats definitely, someone who wears blue, and someone who's very smart indeed. Come to think of it that sounds just like me. Just a suggestion."


Thanks to everyone who entered!

Now, vote, vote, vote! Poll is on the sidebar. >>>

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Caption Contest

Pride & Prejudice 2005
"I don't know about you, but I'm finding this place very spooky. I don't suppose you could hold my hand?"

Congratulations to my darling little sister, Grace, for winning last week's contest! (Sorry if I embarrassed you there, Grace. . . I love you! :-) 

This week's picture, thanks to Ana's suggestion (thanks, Ana!). BTW, if at anytime any of you have an idea for a picture that you think would work well for this weekly contest, please let me know. I'm open to suggestions!

The Young Victoria
Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) and Princess (Queen-to-be) Victoria (Emily Blunt), The Young Victoria

The fine art of transforming siblings into bookworms. . .

North and South

I am so proud of my little sister! Grace - 12 years old - recently finished reading Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. She had never read anything this heavy or challenging before, but she made it, with no problems! (The fact that I had said she could watch N&S for the first time after - and only after - she'd read the book, probably egged her on a bit, too. ;-).

Inspired by her achievement, she is now reading Jane Eyre! And yes, I said that she had to read the book before she could watch the series. ;-) I stopped short of making Naomi read Bleak House before she watched it - I still haven't read Bleak House myself, so it would perhaps have slightly hypocritical of me. . .

Congratulations, Grace! (Read her review of N&S here.)

Other news: my 15-year-old brother is *finally* reading The Lord of the Rings! (And loving it, needless to say!) I've been trying to get him to read LOTR for years! I can't wait to watch the movies again - with my brother, for the first time! - when he finishes.

And. . . I'm making a Janeite of my two-year-old sister. No harm starting early, eh? "Mr. Darcy" - her name for P&P 1995 (you gotta admit, "Pride and Prejudice" is bit of a mouthful, especially for a two-year-old) is already one of her favourite movies. She squeals out "Oooh, look, it's Missar Darcy!" whenever he comes onscreen, and whenever there's dancing, she gets up and jumps and dances around the room! 

And I shouldn't close without mentioning what was perhaps the single greatest triumph of my literary life - getting my teenage brother to read Pride and Prejudice. (He liked it, too!) I'm telling you, it warmed the cockles of my book-loving heart.

PS - of course the title for this post was tongue-in-cheek. The love of books - as with all kinds of love - cannot be forced, though it can be nurtured and encouraged.


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Monday, August 2, 2010

A Damsel's Daybook XI

Outside my window. . . it is dark and chilly, but still a beautiful night. The breeze is rustling the palm tree leaves in our neighbours' backyard.

I am thinking about. . . corsets, of all things!

From the kitchen. . . everything is clean and orderly. . . I think. If anything is out of place, it's my fault, because it was my night for dinner cleanup tonight!

I am reading. . . I am thoroughly engrossed in Little Dorrit! It is almost threatening to topple Our Mutual Friend as my No 1. all-time favourite Dickens novel. ;-) I am also re-reading bits of So Much More.

I am hearing. . . some of my siblings watching Man vs. Wild on TV. Bear Grylls is in Turkey tonight. :-)

I am hoping. . . to some day be charming, intelligent, well-informed, capable, wise, beautiful, charming, intelligent. . . LOL. . .

I am planning. . . to read a little less Dickens and Austen and a little more serious - non-fiction - stuff. Biographies, theology, history. . .

I am wearing. . . clothes!

Around the house. . . all is blissfully quiet.

My wish of the week. . . see "I am hoping", above.

Caption Contest: voting now open

Pride & Prejudice 2005

1. Mr. Collins: "I don't know about you, but I'm finding this place very spooky. I don't suppose you could hold my hand?"

2. "No, you don't think. . . Impossible. . . I never would have guessed."

3. Mr. Collins: "Stare at the camera, not me! You're freaking me out with that stare of yours."

4. Mr. Collins: "Please don't tell me you're staring at a spider that's crawling up my shoulder!"

5. Lizzy: "Uh. . . Mr. Collins, your eyebrow is crooked."

6. Lizzy: "What are you saying?!?!?"
Mr. Collins: "You should have warned me about this!"

7. Lizzy: "Hold still. I see something very tiny on your head there."
Frozen Mr. Collins: "If it's not much trouble, perhaps you could remove it?"

8. Mr. Collins: "I know, I know, I know, I know. . . "
Lizzy: "What are you staring at?"

9. Lizzy: "WHAT did you just say?!?"

10. Lizzy: "What did. . . "
Mr. Collins: "Look straight ahead, dear cousin! This is a top secret mission for Lady Catherine! No one is supposed to know that we even know each other!"

11. Lizzy: "Mr. Collins, the rum is gone."

12. "Do not look now, Miss Elizabeth, but Lady Catherine de Bourgh is looking in this direction."

13. "No, look, seriously, I swear they're looking right at us!"

14. "Don't look now my dear cousin, but I believe someone is taking a picture of us."

15. Mr. Collins: "Who is that old lady over there?!"
Lizzy: "That's my mother!"

16. Lizzy: "Don't be nervous, Mr. Collins. It's only a ball."
Mr. Collins: "A ball. A wicked wasteful use of time. . . May I have the next dance?"

17. Lizzy: "Do you dance, Mr. Collins?"
Mr. Collins: "Not if I can help it."

18. Mr. Collins: "I want to warn you in advance, dear cousin. If people start staring and laughing at us while we dance, bear in mind that they are not laughing at you - I haven't danced for some time and I might be a bit out of practice."

19. Mr. Collins: "My dear cousin Elizabeth, you don't suppose you could move more to your left? That lady over there is staring at me with a very disturbing expression. It's quite unsettling!"

20. Mr. Collins: "Lizzy! Sit up straight, don't stare, and for goodness' sake don't trip! It's Lady Catherine!"


Vote in the poll on my sidebar>>>

Remember, you can vote for as many different entries as you wish.

I write like. . .

I write like
Agatha Christie

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Cool! :-D Thanks, Autumn, for the link.