Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jane Eyre 2006

Jane Eyre (Masterpiece Theatre, 2006)This is the most recent adaptation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and, most would agree, the best.  The book has actually been adapted for film no less than 22 times, the first being in 1910 (a century ago as a silent film!), and the latest version, a film destined for the movie theater will be released in 2011, so stay tuned.  My sister will be interested to note that in that latest, as yet unreleased version, Judi Dench plays the housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax, Mia Wasikowska as Jane (the lead in Alice in Wonderland from this year), and Sally Hawkins, from Persuasion 2007, as the evil aunt Mrs. Reed and Michael Fassbender from Inglorious Basterds as Mr. Rochester.

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.
I have a fondness for this book (my favorite Bronte sister book) and also for the main filming site which was at 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?

 This is a photo of Hadden Hall from the courtyard.  This was just before a little shower, during which we poked around the inside of the house, including the wonderful long gallery, a small portion of which you can see below.

 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.
Pride & PrejudiceThe Duchess

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!


  1. This adaptation of Jane Eyre is brilliant! Ruth Wilson is wonderful as Jane Eyre, Ruth brings Jane to life through her facial expressions, one minute she can sad and lonely, the next look beautiful and happy. Ruth played Jane as I imagine her in the book and brought a freshness to Jane which no other actress has done before.

    Toby Stephens is fantastic as Edward Fairfax Rochester. Toby played Rochester with the right amount of darkness, humor and tenderness as was just right for the character. Toby also looked right to play Rochester as well. I also love the chemistry between Jane & Rochester!

    I've read and watched JE so many times I know it off by heart, I watch it when I am in pain, feeling sad or when I need a Rochester fix! It my comfort DVD. Enjoy this version of my favourite novel.

  2. Hi Kate,

    If you haven't seen Haddon Hall you may want to go after you see the new Jane Eyre. It was filmed here too and since you love the book so much, it really makes you feel as if you are in the film/miniseries to be there.

    I know what you mean about comfort DVDs. I did a post about migraine movies because that's when I curl up in a ball and an old favourite film is just what I need. My last migraine, I watched this miniseries right through (and cried as usual).

    Right now I am reading a book called Year of Wonders, about the plague town Eyam, which is just a stone's throw from both Haddon Hall and Chatsworth. We drove through that adorable town that evening but I didn't know the story then. If you need a new book, I can recommend that one. It would make a great film too!

  3. Hi Jenny,

    On Friday 27th August 2010, my parents took me to Haddon Hall which is a beautiful place! As I am disabled and in a wheelchair I thought I would not get to see very much of the inside of the Hall but Liz, one of the women who works there asked me which JE version was my favourite and I told her it was the TS/RW one and that I was a massive JE fan she said 'The TS/RW version is my favourite too.' She then introduced me to her boss who was there when the 2006 JE was being filmed so she told me some wonderful JE facts! They also showed me the kitchens, Rochester's study, where Jane plays the piano, the staircase where Jane walks down in her wedding dress, the doorway where JE & ER kiss in the rain the chapel and Bertha's tower. Polly, the lady who was Liz's boss told me all about how the fire was filmed and how it took the crew 2 hours to get the owl to fly past the hall! She showed us a big picture of the fire scene! I saw Jane's bedroom window too and Polly told me that I had entered the way where ER rides off followed by Pilot. I loved every minute of it, my Mum did too, my Dad took lots of photos. Mum and I got very excited. The staff told me some facts about the JE 2011 film as well which has made me look forward to seeing it very much!

    I had a lovely day and got to see more than I thought I would thanks to the kindness and generosity of the staff at Haddon Hall. My Mum walked through the Long Gallery (which unfortunately I was unable to see) and took a photo of it for me, she saw the stairs where ER walks down after Jane after the money scene. I also went outside and saw the path where JE looks around Thornfield and walks down the steps opposite Bertha's Tower. I asked Polly where the library was & she told me it was upstairs.

    The only thing that was missing was Toby Stephens striding out of the Hall towards me to hug and kiss me! Oh well... I can dream can't I?! Whenever I watch JE 2006 in the future I will remember this wonderful day which has added to the magic of JE 2006 and I love JE even more.

    Thank you for your remmendation of a new book The Year of Wonders, I have never heard of it but I will keep a look out for it.

  4. Wow, did you ever get a great tour! You saw a lot more than I did. It really is Thornfield isn't it?

    Try to keep an open mind about the new film and I think you'll like it. It captures the spirit of the book, but at 2 hours it just had to have a lot cut out. I just wanted more at the end, which is where the 2006 version really shines. But, any Jane Eyre is better than no Jane Eyre and you will see all of the lovely Haddon Hall which you know and love so well now. The photography is breathtaking in the new film. We paid extra to see it on a big digital screen. I don't know if you are near enough to a big city with one of those high tech screens, but for this film, it's worth it if you can. I saw it a second time at a small art house theatre and it wasn't quite as breathtaking.

    Too bad you have to wait until Sept in the UK, but anticipation is half the fun!

  5. Think I need a JE 06 fix. I LOVE the proposal scene because it is moving, heartbreaking, passionate and romantic all at the same time. When I saw the proposal scene on TV I thought, 'At last it has been acted out exactly how I have always imaged it inside my head for years when reading the novel.' I also love the scene where they are running through the rain, all happy, giddy and in love and every time Edward says, 'Goodnight, my darling.' to Jane, I feel so happy because again it is how I pictured it, I want to Jane kissing Edward passionately as well. *sigh*

    The proposal scene is beautifully acted by both Toby and Ruth. Toby is wonderful as Edward Fairfax Rochster and Ruth is pefect as Jane Eyre! I think I need to go to Jane Eyre rehab!

    Kate x

    Leeds, England

  6. I have seen the 1983, which I loved, the 2006, which I loved even more, and the 2011, not so much. But I've only watched them on DVD, no big screens. Even on a small screen, the 2006 is magnificent (it was always meant for TV), it has breathtaking outside and inside sceneries, and TB/RW are so fresh, passionate and quiet in their acting. All is perfect in this mini series. I will watch the 2011 movie once more before I make up my mind about it, first time around it looked drabbed and dreary. It was harder to believe the passionate love story between Jane and Edward, although it had beautiful sceneries too, and good actors. I'll give it a second chance to impress. After all, I am an eyraholic (from abroad).




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