Lots of news in the media this week over the upcoming release of Jane Eyre, the new major motion picture adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 classic novel produced by the UK trifecta BBC Films, Focus Features and Ruby Films. It premieres in the US on Friday March 11, a full six months before its native land of England, a surprising twist since Yanks usually don’t get anything produced by the BBC until months after it has aired on UK television.
We are not complaining mind you, just puzzled at their marketing strategy. Less than two years ago BBC executives declared the death of the bonnet drama announcing a shift from period fare to contemporary stories. When the premiere television producer of period drama for the past thirty years makes ugly noises we believe them and grieved the loss to our entertainment future. Not only have they changed their minds, but they have moved from television production to major theatrical release of a novel that has been adapted into film no less than 18 times. Why the change of heart, and why Jane Eyre?
Social Times blog asks, How Has Facebook Revitalized Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte? They would like you to contemplate the possibility that social media is driving the market.
More than 150 years after her death, author Charlotte Bronte and her lovable character Jane Eyre are more popular than ever, and experts attribute their newfound notoriety to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
They want to clump Jane Austen into the mix too because Austen has an even stronger online presence than the Brontes. Recently Toronto University English professor Deidre Lynch credited Austen’s recent rise in popularity to actor Colin Firth, Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice 1995, for getting “a lot of people got hooked on the novels,” adding “that’s too simple an explanation for Austen’s ever-growing legion of fans. Social media, too, have given Austen a second life.”
Devotees of the Bronte’s can be found on Twitter, Facebook and blogs across the Internet, but as someone who searches social media daily for news on Jane Austen and period dramas, we see more chatter and articles on Austen than on the Brontes, by far. If the logic that the new Jane Eyre movie has been fueled by interest on social media, than exponentially, Austen would have ten new movies in production to the Bronte’s one.
We are in favor of the new Jane Eyre producer Alison Owen’s pragmatic explanation. It appears that in the world of period costume drama, Jane Eyre is inexpensive to produce.
“It’s set in a house in the middle of a moor,” she explained. “Jane Austen can be quite expensive. You need horses, carriages, houses, gowns. But on the whole Jane Eyre is much more starkly peopled than most period movies. You don’t need swaths of costumes. And scenery costs nothing. Point a camera at those moors, and it looks like a David Lean film.”
So, there you go Janeites. Because Austen’s novels do not have descriptions of clothing, scenery or political times, our projected expectations make adaptation costly to produce. Could we abide an Austen miniseries without fine frocks, carriages or country manor houses to drool over? Would the lack of an assembly balls or walks in the shrubberies make us change the channel?
I will let you ponder that a bit and bring this back to those bare bones Brontes. I have seen six Jane Eyre movie or miniseries adaptations in my day. They seem to arrive every seven years or so like hungry cicada eager to devour our hearts. The 1943 Jane Eyre with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine was my favorite movie for decades. This is a story that demands to remain in black and white. Give it color and you lose the Gothic shadows and creepy coldness that is required. Even the last 2006 version starring Toby Stevens and Ruth Wilson didn’t get it right. Maybe, just maybe this new Jane will be the one. We shall find out next Saturday with family and friends. Hope you go see it too, so we can chat about it on Facebook and Twitter!
• Jane Eyre – Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland)
• Mr. Rochester – Michael Fassbender (Band of Brothers)
• Mrs. Fairfax – Judi Dench (Lady Catherine de Bourgh – Pride and Prejudice 2005)
• Adele Varens – Romy Settbon Moore
• Mrs. Reed – Sally Hawkins (Anne Elliot – Persuasion 2007)
• Blanche Ingram – Imogen Poots (Fanny Austen Knight – Miss Austen Regrets)
• Lady Ingram – Sophie Ward (Land Girls)
- Full cast listing can be found on IMDb
- Visit the official Jane Eyre 2011 website
- Brontë Inc: The Three Sisters Who Changed English Literature
© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose