Did anyone else watch the new BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre, shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre the last few Sundays? It stars Toby Stephens as Rochester and Ruth Wilson as Jane Eyre.

Now, I adore Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre, Pride & Predjudice, and Little Women – I’ve read each of those books more times than I can count. And I’m not quite sure what to make of this new adaptation. I enjoyed it immensely – both they’re both so darned attractive, it just hardly feels like Jane and Rochester! Toby Stephens … gah, he’s gorgeous. And Ruth Wilson hardly seems like “poor, plain, obscure, little” Jane. The chemistry between them is smokin’ – as evidenced by this scene after she’s saved him from being burnt alive in his own bed. And the ending – oh, the ending was lovely. And as opposed to what is typically said of the book’s conclusion – that by being blinded and crippled, Rochester is symbolically castrated – the Wilson/Stephens pairing remains sensual and full of life. You don’t imagine this Jane looking after this Rochester like a nursemaid tends an invalid.

I was always fond of the 1997 A&E adaptation with Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton. They physically matched my vision of the characters – Rochester is big, dark, brooding, intimidating. Jane is petite, plain, very young.
So maybe Ciaran Hinds is still my Rochester. But Toby Stephens can come set my bed on fire any day.
Did any of you watch it? What did you think?

8 comments to “The Other Jane (and the other Toby)”

  1. beverley
    · January 29th, 2007 at 12:50 pm · Link

    I actually did see some of it last night on PBS. At first I didn’t even know it was Jane Eyre but I left it there because it was a period piece and I wanted to listen to their diction. I’ve actually never read Jane Eyre but I saw one adaption when I was very young back in the 80’s (or maybe late 70s I can’t quite remember).
    It appears I will have to read the book.


  2. CM
    · January 29th, 2007 at 1:16 pm · Link

    I am already salivating at the possibility of seeing this. I mean, just frothing at the mouth. Although the fact that Jane was plain was quite important for the plot. How else can you explain how hideously inappropriate St. John’s proposal is?

  3. Lynne Simpson
    · January 29th, 2007 at 2:59 pm · Link

    Timothy Dalton was an awesome Rochester. He had just the right air of menace, mystery, and desperation that I would expect from Rochester. Although I adore Toby Stephens, he may be too pretty for the role. I’ll definitely try to track down these episodes.

    Thanks for the tip, Eve!

  4. Tessa Dare
    · January 29th, 2007 at 5:06 pm · Link

    Yeah, CM, in this version, “plain” seems to mean “dressed in grey.” I mean, she isn’t as classically beautiful as the actress playing Blanche Ingram, but Ruth Wilson has a very intense, pouty beauty.

    The US DVD release date is February 20th, so you don’t have to wait long.

    Lynne, I haven’t seen the Timothy Dalton one – but he’s rather “pretty” himself. 🙂

    Toby Stephens tries so hard to look stern and scowly all through this, but when he’s speaking, his face just naturally relaxes into this boyishly charming mug. And they try to make it seem there’s a height difference, but in RL I’d guess he’s barely taller than her. It’s hard to see him as physically intimidating. Physically attractive, no problem there. The whole production is very sexy.

    And Bev – yes. You *must* read the book.

  5. Kelly
    · January 29th, 2007 at 8:04 pm · Link

    I never read Jane Eyre either. I’m familiar with the story, but never got around to reading it. The Bronte sisters’ books were always such dark stories, but I couldn’t help getting sucked in by them, especially with their tortured heroes. I mean, Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights? He’s the epitome of a tortured hero.

    Thanks Eve, I’ll have to keep an eye out for this.


  6. Lindsey
    · January 30th, 2007 at 1:31 pm · Link

    It ultimately won me over, even if I was sorry about some of the choices they made. I thought they really downplayed a lot of the conflict – like showing Jane’s decision to leave Thornfield as a flashback. But there were so many wonderful visuals, and Toby Stephens was dead sexy.

    I like the Hinds/Morton version too. Unfortunately, JE (like most Victorian novels) isn’t a book that lends itself well to the structure of a film, so all adaptations end up lacking something.

    Which is why you should all read the book! It’s probably one of the most influential works of women’s fiction. And one of the most brilliant first-person narratives.

  7. Lenora Bell
    · January 30th, 2007 at 8:42 pm · Link

    I found the Hinds/Morton version for $1 at an illegal DVD shop here about four months ago. I thought it was extremely effective, and hulking, brooding Hinds was perfect as Rochester. But I am never averse to eye candy. I will joyfully suspend my disbelief if the view is pretty enough. So I’ll have to look out for this version.

  8. Anonymous
    · March 20th, 2007 at 4:49 pm · Link

    I loved this new adaptation and have become a big Toby Stephens fan as a result.

    If you cannot get enough of Toby Stephens, be sure to check out his fansite at http://tobystephens.moonfruit.com (note, no “www” before that).