Jane Eyre (1996) ***

The first time I saw this Zeffirelli version of the famous Bronte classic, I wasn’t particularly impressed with either Charlotte Gainsbourg’s feisty interpretation of Jane, or with William Hurt’s over-sensitive version of Rochester.

This Jane is the one with dark and brooding tendencies (played as a child by Anna Paquin, this side of her comes across well); while Rochester is damaged by his past but not quite right in the characterisation, less a gothic hero than a damp squib.

A second viewing put both in a more favourable light, but the problem is that ‘Jane Eyre’ has many other, much better, adaptations out there and this version adds very little. In the cast we have Billie Whitelaw as a creepy Grace Poole, the reliable Joan Plowright as Mrs Fairfax, Samuel West as the colourless St John Rivers, and Maria ‘Last Tango’ Schneider as the imprisoned lunatic, Bertha.

One or two scenes stay in the memory – Josephine Serre as the very French Adele; Jane’s sketching; the wedding sequences; Jane and Rochester’s first meeting (but this scene has been done much better before) – but as a whole it is pretty throwaway and forgettable.

About Louise Penn

Writer, reviewer, fan. View all posts by Louise Penn

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