But now back to this 2006 version, which is a miniseries length. I happen to really love this dramatization of Jane Eyre. The leads (Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester and Ruth Wilson as Jane Eyre) are slightly more attractive than they are described in the book, but they are both a little unusual looking by Hollywood standards and so they work very well.
Haddon Hall in Bakewell, Derbyshire. The Squire (my husband) and I stayed in Bakewell for 3 days last summer and spent a lovely afternoon at Haddon Hall (pictured above in The Squire's photo).
The history of Haddon Hall is interesting, in that it was a secondary residence of the family of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, and it lay dormant from 1700 until the 1920's when it was restored to a habitable state by the 9th Duke of Rutland, John Manners. It has parts that are virtually unchanged from medieval times and so has been used for filming other favorites such as the latest Pride and Prejudice and The Princess Bride. Also not surprisingly, The Other Boleyn Girl and Elizabeth used Haddon Hall as a location.
Back to the adaptation of Jane Eyre, this mini-series works well because it's greater length allows the story to develop without being rushed. There is truly too much story to be squashed into a 2 hour film (so good luck to the current Judi Dench production). The script by my new favorite script writer Sandy Welch manages to get most of the book's essence distilled into this production, although it is always best to read or re-read the book to get all of the best bits, especially if the mini-series has only whetted your appetite for Charlotte Bronte.
Toby Stephens, who is the son of the incredible Dame Maggie Smith, really fits the bill as Mr. Rochester. He often plays bad guys, as in the Bond flick Die Another Day where he played Gustav Graves, so in this he is comfortable with the multiple layered personality of this character. He has the females swooning, and the chemistry between him and Ruth Wilson is rarely found and well appreciated. The development of the friendship between Jane and Mr. Rochester, which blossoms into something more passionate, is deftly handled. The repressed feelings of both leads are conveyed without words, which are not needed here to show us the emotion felt between them. It will have you both swooning and sobbing in parts.
Ruth Wilson was barely out of film school when she filmed this, which makes her sensitive portrayal of Jane all the more remarkable. She has more recently been doing contemporary drama such as the UK crime drama Luther, and she is rumored to be playing Jaqueline Kennedy in Flying Into Love, a "re-imagining of JFK's assassination" as seen through Jackie's eyes. You can see from her unusual looks how she would be good for that role. In any case, her Jane Eyre is luminous, showing huge emotion with no dialogue whatsoever, at times. One look conveys all she is feeling. Even if this is the only thing she ever did, she would be remembered as a wonderful actress.
There has been some criticism of the screenplay, in that it uses less of Charlotte Bronte's original language than some viewers would like, and there is no doubt that it has a more modern feel than it might have, for a four hour miniseries. However, Sandy Welch tends to like a more modern feel to her screenplays, as we saw in the latest Emma, which I think draws in a much younger audience than it might otherwise. And that is not a bad thing. I think it will entice many a teenager to read Jane Eyre, although hopefully not a vampire/monster version (such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) which is probably in production as we speak! (although there is already a graphic novel version-i.e. comic book for us ancients). Every generation seems to want to claim works such as Jane Eyre for their own, and the fact that it has been filmed for a full century, and still in print in many incarnations, would be a source of amazement to the Bronte sisters. I doubt that Charlotte would object too strenuously to changes made to her work for adaptation to film, considering that the works of most of her contemporaries lie languishing in dusty libraries untouched for decades. She might perhaps draw the line at Mr. Rochester as a vampire, although who am I to say?
The Squire got a great photo of the garden with the house in the background after the sun came out that afternoon. If you click on the photo, and then again to magnify it, it will give you a much larger version of the photo and you can see some of the amazing architectural detail, which makes it such a great filming location.
So if ever you find yourself in the vicinity of Bakewell, Derbyshire in the Peaks District of England, not only will you want to take a peek at Haddon Hall shown here, but you will only be a few miles from Chatsworth, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and location of many other films such as Pride and Prejudice 2005 and The Duchess, both starring Keira Knightley (and interestingly enough, the new 2011 version of Jane Eyre).Stay tuned for more on this production as it has finished filming and is in post production.
Well, now I will have to decide whether to go back and view Jane Eyre 2006 again, or read the book again. Or perhaps both, although not simultaneously as I cannot multitask as well as my teenage sons who are at this moment studying, watching the World Cup Soccer and texting friends. Sigh!