Literary, Gothic romance, social criticism
Approx. 186,000 words
Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds are a plain but romantic Jane and Mr. Rochester in 1997 television movie.
Jane's mysterious love
Jane Eyre (1997): Director Robert Young; writers Richard Hawley, Kay Mellor, Peter Wright; featuring Samantha Morton, Ciarán Hinds, Gemma Jones, Rupert Penry-Jones, Laura Harling
Jane Eyre is considered a seminal Gothic romance novel and most film adaptations don't resist playing up those elements of Charlotte Brontë's novel. But the 1997 movie made for British television goes all out to show a full-on love story.
To accomplish that—and to fit the running time into a television-friendly hour and three-quarters—some of the other content of the novel had to be curtailed or cut out altogether. The ten chapters of Jane's abusive early years with her relatives, the Reed family, and at Lowood Institution, have been compressed to about ten minutes of the movie. And later at Thornfield with Mrs. Fairfax and Mr. Rochester, her month-long revisit with her dying aunt Mrs. Reed, is cut out entirely, except to show her leaving and returning to Thornfield; the entire drama of that visit with her aunt, confessing her regret over her treatment of the girl and revealing Jane's inheritance, is left out.
Later the chapters in which Jane flees Thornfield and takes up with the missionary Rivers family, which takes up about a quarter of the book, is also reduced to essentials, to quickly get her back to the final darkly romantic scenes between Jane and Rochester.
And damned if it doesn't work. The earlier and later scenes of the two pouring out their hearts to each other, and the things that drive them apart, are heart-breaking. It's a hard man or woman who isn't moved to tears as much as the two would-be lovers are.
Partly this is due to the choice of actors to play the leads. Initially, it may seem that both are somewhat lacking in charisma, or even basic good looks. But Samantha Morton has this ability in Jane Eyre to appear plain, negligible, dowdy even, for much of the story and then become absolutely luminous as she and Rochester are falling in love. And this is exactly how Jane Eyre is supposed to appear.
Ciarán Hinds is also different from the usual Rochester in Jane Eyre films. He's heavy-set, far from handsome, and even somewhat of a brute. But, again, this may be closer to the character in the novel before he started being remoulded into a dashingly attractive bad boy of cinema (similarly to the treatment of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights adaptations). Which makes sense, as Jane is pointedly not attracted to superficial appearances.
The most emotional scene between Jane and Rochester in 1997's Jane Eyre.
What Jane is drawn to in Rochester's character is not at all clear. She herself says several times in this film, the attraction is a mystery to her, though she feels it deeply and in the end must give in to it.
This of course is a romantic trope. And it's justified by the happy family life tableau, hinted at in the novel and more explicitly tacked on to the end of the film.
— Eric McMillan