Pride and Prejudice (1995) Mini-series – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my seventh selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed for new participants, but you can join us in reading all the great reviews and comments until December 31, 2013.

My Review

Eighteen years after it first aired on BBC One in October 1995, the television mini-series Pride and Prejudice (1995) is still blowing bonnets off Janeites and wowing them in the aisles! This week in London a twelve foot statue replicating Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy’s famous wet shirt ascent from the Pemberley pond was revealed. Its super hero size seems apropos in relation to the impact that the mini-series had on Britain in 1995, in the US when it aired on A&E in 1996, and the world. If that was not eye-popping enough, the scene recently topped a poll of the ten most memorable British TV moments! We will be bold as brass and claim it as the most memorable TV moment in period drama evah!

Mr Darcy twelve foot statue (2013)

Wet shirt Darcy may have fluttered hearts across the world, but let us not forget that there are five hours and thirty nine other minutes to enjoy too. The screenplay based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel was written by Andrew Davies and introduced a more energized and sexier version of the classic love story than viewers had previously experienced with the 1980 BBC mini-series or the 1940 MGM theatrical movie. It was a modernized Austen that purist detested, Janeites embraced, and the general public adored, converting millions into fans and launching the Austen renaissance that we are enjoying today. Continue reading

Jane Eyre 2011: A Film Review by Syrie James

Jane Eyre (2011) movie posterInquiring Readers: We are very fortunate to welcome author, screenwriter and Janeite Syrie James for a guest film review today. She recently attended an advance screening of the new movie adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic Gothic romance Jane Eyre which premieres in limited release today in the US.

Welcome Syrie – and thanks for the timely review!

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has been my favorite book since I was 11 years old. I’ve read it so many times I’ve lost count. The tale of a feisty governess who finds true love in a spooky mansion, while pouring her heart out on the page in lush, romantic prose, has made it to the top of every “Best Love Stories” list since it was first published in 1847, and with good reason.

Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre (2011)The perfect Gothic novel, Jane Eyre melds all the requisite elements of mystery, horror, and the classic medieval castle setting with heart-stopping romance. The story is also very appealing: the rise of a poor orphan girl against seemingly insurmountable odds, whose love and determination ultimately redeem a tormented hero. And the book has serious things to say about issues that are still relevant today: women’s struggle for equality, the realization of self, and the nature of true love. The novel appeals not only to an audience’s hearts, but also to their heads.

Of all the classic 19th-century novels, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has been by far the most filmed, with at least 18 film versions (including a 1910 silent movie) and 9 made-for-television movies.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, by Syrie James (2009)I have seen nearly all of them—some multiple times—both out of my deep love for the tale, and as part of the research for my novel The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, the true story of Charlotte’s remarkable life, her inspiration behind “Jane Eyre,” her rise to fame as an author, and the little-known story of her turbulent, real-life romance. (My novel was named a Great Group read by the Women’s National Book Association, and the audio book version was just nominated for an Audie Award, the Oscars of the audiobook publishing world—very exciting!)

Every screen version of JANE EYRE has its merits, and it’s always a thrill to re-experience my favorite, beloved scenes from the book with each new adaptation. I especially loved Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of Mr. Rochester in the 1983 mini-series, and the 2006 Masterpiece Theatre mini-series starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.

I was very curious to see how the new JANE EYRE adaptation from Focus Films would measure up. I am happy to report that the film, which I saw Monday night at an advance screening, is very good indeed, with marvelous visuals, terrific performances, and enough unique elements to make it a worthy new addition.

The most notable distinction of this film that sets it apart from the rest is its structure. Rather than telling the tale in a straight-forward, linear fashion, it begins at a crisis moment that occurs later in the story, and tells the majority of the tale in flashback–similar to the structure of The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë–and it works wonderfully well here, enabling screenwriter Moira Buffini to effectively compress a long novel into a two-hour time span.

Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) on the Moors in Jane Eyre (2011)The movie opens as Jane is fleeing Thornfield after having discovered Mr. Rochester’s dark and heartbreaking secret. We fear for her as she becomes lost on the stormy moor. The mystery continues as St. John Rivers (well-played by a sympathetic yet appropriately stern Jamie Bell) and his sisters take her in. Who is this lost lamb? Why does she call herself Jane Elliott? Who or what is she running from? As Jane ruminates about the past events that led to her escape, we are treated to the story in flashback.

The casting of Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND) as Jane Eyre also sets this production apart, since she is closer in age than most actresses who’ve played the role to the character in the novel, who was about 18 years old in the Thornfield section. Although I wish Mia’s Jane was a bit more “swoony” over Mr. Rochester earlier on (yes, she is supposed to be stoic, but I missed that phase where we get to see her blossom as she falls in love with him, and then is utterly crushed when she believes him to be in love with Miss Ingram), Mia truly inhabits the role, beautifully portraying Jane’s sense of self-respect, integrity, and restraint, as well as her passion and vulnerability.

Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender) in Jane Eyre (2011)Michael Fassbender was also inspired casting. He embodies Mr. Rochester with the ideal blend of charisma and sinister brooding, while at the same time allowing glimpses of his underlying desperation and the wounded depths of his soul. When Jane and Rochester finally admit their love for each other, it is romantic and exciting, with sparks flying. (As this is my favorite part of the story, for me it was also far too short!)

Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Reed, adorned in stiff ringlets and satin gowns, effectively portrays the icy ogre who menaces the young Jane (a spirited and appealing Amelia Clarkson.)

Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench) and Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska ) in Jane Eyre (2011)And how can you go wrong with Judi Dench as housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax? As always, Dench gives a rock-solid performance, with subtle nuances that make the role her own.

The film’s locations do justice to the novel’s often gloomy, atmospheric tone. Haddon Hall in Bakewell, Derbyshire, built atop a limestone outcropping and one of the oldest houses in England, stands in for Thornfield Hall. According to location manager Giles Edleston, Haddon Hall has “more rooms and sets than a filmmaker could ever wish for,” and Director Cary Fukunaga makes terrific use of it, emphasizing its dark, Gothic, masculine feel, especially effective in a particular, chilling attic scene.

The exterior locations—gardens, cliffs, craggy rocks, stone walls, and seemingly endless fields—make an arresting, dramatic backdrop for the story. The press notes state, “Although we made it seem like Thornfield is in the middle of nowhere, just beyond the edge of the frame was modern civilization.” Rest assured that the illusion is complete; you truly do feel as though you are in the middle of nowhere.

Rochester (Michael Fassbender) and Jane (Mia Wasikowska) in Jane Eyre (2011)

The film also effectively makes use of the top of the gardens surrounding Derbyshire’s Chatsworth House—a location more commonly associated with Austen’s Pride and Prejudice—to film Jane Eyre’s dramatic first encounter with Mr. Rochester, when he appears out of the mist and fog astride his horse.

I have only two minor gripes with the film (WARNING: minor spoiler alert. If you aren’t familiar with the classic story, you might want to stop reading now.) While the revelation of Mr. Rochester’s secret was very well-done, I felt it was a little too “prettified.” And the ending was too abrupt for me. An explanation (for the uninitiated) of Rochester’s condition in the final scene would have been nice, and I would have preferred another minute or two to relish the lovers’ emotional reunion. But that aside, the filmmakers have done a masterful job translating the novel to the screen.

Please share your thoughts and comments about Jane Eyre. When did you first read the novel? Which film adaptations are your favorites, and why? If you’ve read The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, did it enhance your appreciation of Jane Eyre?

You can learn more about the new film at the Jane Eyre facebook page, where there’s a trailer and a “Jane Eyre Challenge” with a kindle as a prize. The movie opens today, March 11. I highly recommend it! Go see it soon at a theater near you!

Bio

Syrie James, hailed as the “queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings” by Los Angeles Magazine, is the bestselling author of four critically acclaimed novels: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (Best First Novel 2008, Library Journal), The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (Audie-nominated, Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association), Dracula, My Love (which reveals Mina Harker’s passionate love affair with the most famous vampire of them all), and most recently Nocturne, praised by Library Journal as “lyrical, lush, and intensely romantic.” The translation rights for Syrie’s books have been sold in fifteen languages. Her short story “Jane Austen’s Nightmare” will appear in Laurel Ann Nattress’s Austen anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, due out from Ballantine Books in October.  Syrie’s next novel, Forbidden, which she co-wrote with her son Ryan, will be published by HarperTeen in early 2012.

A member of the Writer’s Guild of America, RWA, and a lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Syrie is an admitted Anglophile and is obsessed with all things Austen, although she lives in Los Angeles. For more information about Syrie’s books, please visit www.syriejames.com. Syrie also invites you to friend her on facebook (and leave a comment!) and follow her on Twitter @SyrieJames.

Further reading:

© 2007 – 2011 Syrie James, Austenprose

Is Social Media Responsible for the new Jane Eyre Movie?

Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre (2011)

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.

Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre (2011)

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?

Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Reed in Jane Eyre (2011)

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.”

Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre (2011)

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.

Michael Fassbender and Imogen Poots in Jane Eyre (2011)

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?

Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre (2011)

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!

Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre (2011)

Major Cast

• 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)

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Austen Tattler: News and Gossip on the Net: Issue No 10

“All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.” Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31

April 19-25, 2010

Hot News of the Week:

Austenesque author Laurie Viera Rigler’s addiction to Jane Austen has inspired two best selling books: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. Now she can add an original comedy web series on Babelgum.com to her Janeite accolades. Read all about  Sex and the Austen Girl on her blog and tune in next month for the first episode! Congrats Laurie. Brava!

Noteworthy:

Brooding Brontës replace Jane Austen as the bonnet drama remakes of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights return to the BBC and Film4 in the UK next season. Jane considered too tame and the Brontës are right for the times!

Interview of Austenesque author Amanda Grange (Mr. Darcy’s Diary, et all) at Dark Angel Review & Writing Blog about her experience getting published for the first time.

The Republic of Pemberley continues its group read of Pride and Prejudice through May 23rd, 2010

Great deal on bargain priced editions of Amanda Grange’s Austen Heroes Series at Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com

Get local with Jane — news from AustenBlog on local Austen events

Julie at Austenonly discusses the new quilt exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and ties in Jane Austen and her famous quilt that reside at Chawton Cottage.

Interview of Skylar Hamilton Burris, Austenesque author of Conviction at Austenesque Reviews

Jane Austen’s World discusses activitist Caroline Norton and a Woman’s Legal Rights in the 19th-century

JASNA members watch for the spring issue of JASNA News in your mailbox this week. News on the Annual General Meeting in Portland in October, a great book review by Diana Birchall of The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet and part three of Jane Goes Digital by Mags of AustenBlog

Entertainment:

Just for fun: video mashup of Iron Man vs. Bridget Jones!

Inside news on the new indie movie Pride and Prejudice (2010) currently being filmed in Colorado at Pride and Prejudice 2005 Blog

Anil Kapoor’s Aisha the new Bollywood modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma starring his daughter Sonam Kapoor in the title role is set for an August 6th, 2010 release in India

Announcements:

Preview of Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine’s May/June 2010 issue

Austenesque author Beth Pattillo’s new book The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Novel with Sense and Sensibility

GirleBooks announces a new print edition of The Sylph, by Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire with foreword by Heather Carrol of  The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Gude to the 18th-century. Join the group read of The Sylph that begins on May 1st.

The paperback edition of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler goes on sale on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 just in time for summer beach reading.

The restored & remastered DVD edition of Pride and Prejudice 1995 goes on sale on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010. Huzzah! Now we can see the dripping Darcy emerging from the pond with more clarity and finer detail then every before!

Check out the new cover of Bespelling Jane Austen a new Austen inspired paranormal novel featuring four novellas from authors Mary Balogh, Janet Mullany, Susan Krinard, and Colleen Gleason. Very classy!

Book/Movie Reviews:

Until next week, happy Jane sighting

Laurel Ann

Mansfield Park (2007) Movie: Musings & Discussion: Day 13 Give-away!

 

MOVIES

Interestingly, it has been exactly seven months since this adaptation of Mansfield Park aired on PBS during The Complete Jane Austen series last January. I wish that I could say that time has made my heart grow fonder, but a recent re-viewing has not changed my feelings in any respect to my original review, and I am still greatly disappointed in it. It fails as a true adaptation to Jane Austen’s masterpiece for many reasons which I and others have previously pointed out, but I think that I could have overlooked all of its blunders if the screen writer Maggie Wadey had allowed our heroine Fanny Price to have the moral fortitude and principles that Jane Austen had endowed to her in the first place! This Fanny Price is more a flighty Kitty Bennet, ready to follow than act as the moral compass for us to measure the behavior of the rest of characters against, which I believe was Austen’s intension.  

There are some who like this film and there are elements that I enjoyed and appreciated myself. The cast was excellent with one exception. Here are a few images to highlight their performances. 

Fanny Price (Billie Piper) and Edmund Bertram (Blake Ritson) enjoying a ride and discussion on the grounds of Mansfield Park. Piper flopped as Fanny given nothing to work with, and Ritson was not quite staid and moralistic enough, though he was nice eye candy, looking rather like a young Rod Stewart! 

Mary Crawford (Hayley Atwell) was duly devious and alluring and shined in the role. When she was not on screen, I was waiting for her return! Henry Crawford (Joseph Beattie) is a talented actor who I recently enjoyed in Brideshead Revisted, but I wanted him to be stronger and more slippery than the director Iain McDonald would allow. 

Maria Bertram (Michele Ryan) was the ultimate knock-out sultry siren! What man could resist such beauty and charm? Mr. Rushworth (Rory Kinnear) seems to be always portrayed by large slightly pudgy men who are a bit clueless! On this account, the director selected the ideal match to Austen’s intension and Kinnear plays Rushworth perfectly. Julia Bertram (Katherine Steadman) being the second fiddle to her sister Maria is thankless role in the movie and the book. Steadman was, well second fiddle. 

Sir Thomas arrives home from Antigua unexpectedly to discover his children in the throws of a theatrical. The looks on their faces tells all. This part, they got right. 

 

Fanny Price (Billie Piper) in one of her happier moments. Fanny is not given much dialogue with any substance unfortunately.  Piper gives her lots of perk though! 

Mary Crawford (Hayley Atwell) looking at Edmund with impudence and authority. She will make any man who dares to love her tow the line. 

Lady Bertram (Jemma Redgrave) regally lounges on the settee with Pug (Holly). Though not stated in the novel, I often wonder if Lady Bertram is ill or under the influence (as some actors have seemed to portray her). This Lady Bertram actually has opinions and notices her children! 

Henry Crawford (Joseph Beattie) attempts to convince Fanny Price (Billie Piper) to marry him. I never quite felt his intensity and determination as I did in the novel. Austen is so persistent in his pursuit, that at one point, I actually thought that Fanny was wavering and would succumb. This Fanny is not as appalled and repulsed as she should be. 

Edmund Bertram (Blake Ritson) at the exact moment he realizes that Mary Crawford is a fake and rejects her. Ritson is at his best in this scene. 

Fanny and Edmund finally discover that they love each other, all because of the color purple. Go figure! 

Further reading and viewing 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 13 Give-away!

Leave a comment by August 30th. to be eligible for a drawing on August 31st for one copy of

Mansfield Park (2007)

Adapted by Maggie Wadey, directed by Ian B. MacDonald, an ITV & WGBH production, 92 minutes. Staring Billie Piper as Fanny Price, Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram and Hayley Atwell as Mary Crawford. 

Upcoming posts
Day 14 – Aug 28          MP novel discussion chapter 41-48
Day 15 – Aug 29          MP: Sequels, Spinoff’s and Retellings
Day 16 – Aug 30          MP: What People Are Saying
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Roundup & Conclusion