Aug 24, 2011

Jane Eyre: the proposal scene through the years

I love, love this book. For those living in Mars, written by one the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Jane Eyre tells the story of a poor intelligent girl that goes from having a horrible childhood in which she was beaten and humiliated, to work as a governess in an obscure castle where you can hear mad laughs at night, owned by a troubled and menacing looking guy.

Well, one of the most powerful scenes from this story is when Jane and Mr. Rochester finally discuss their future. To understand what each character is dealing with, and what actors should be portraying in the movie or series adaptations, some info (spoilers!):

a) Jane has finally found a soulmate, that really adores her because of her inner qualities.
b) But after realizing she's in love with him and that he cares about her, she finds out that he's going to get married with an aristocratic lady he has nothing in common with. At least that's what she believes.
c) She has been on an emotional roller coaster for months now, her mind is probably very tired of thinking every moment how to solve the situation.
d) Rochester had a very terrible life: the woman he married turned out to come from a family that, like Cary Grant would say, "Insanity doesn't run in the family, it gallops". So after she went completely nuts and even attacked him, he decided to secretly take care of her in the castle instead of sending her to a mental hospital.
e) To this depressed and troubled man, the Jane Eyre's inner calmness, understanding and intelligence is the best that could happen to him. But he has to keep his secret and by proposing he's also defying social rules and risking their friendship.

Well, some guy at Imdb compiled the proposal scene of a lot of adaptations, the scene where all the emotions described in the list (should) finally  flourish. I haven't seen every adaptation, so I'll comment what I see. I'll embed the pivotal videos, and link the others.

1934 Pretty boring, plus blonde Jane Eyre is too pretty and Rochester too...dull (Scene | Imdb)

1943 Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles did a good job, considering the movie left out a lot of details...but I don't like the special effects added, they make the scene look creepy.

1970 George Scott and Susanah York look kind of old...but their scene wasn't bad (Scene | Imdb)

1972 The guys in this Czech black and white adaptation did a decent job...but overall they don't nail the emotions described: she looks more angry and pissed off and Rochester seems too relaxed (Scene | Imdb)

1973 This one looks like those movie parodies Carole Burnett did on her show (Scene | Imdb)

1983 This one is considered one of the best adaptations, and Timothy Dalton one of the best Rochester...I don't like the actress' performance, kind of bland and recitative (Imdb)

1996 I remember seeing this film as a kid and loving it. My younger-self approves Franco Zefirelli's version. (Scene | Imdb

1997 Reading some comments I thought this one was awful, but it's ok. The girl does a great job and Ciarán Hinds looks ok. (Scene | Imdb)

2007 The BBC's mini series adaptation is my personal favorite. I love Toby Stephens (son of Maggie Smith) as Mr. Rochester, here he makes you feel that this moment is crucial, that he's thinking every word, that his happiness is at stake. And Ruth Wilson decided to play the scene as Jane's final relief, with all the emotions she restrained for so long pouring out, with sadness, impotence, anger...something you can't control. I always end up crying here. Awesome!

2011I overall liked the latest movie version, but I felt the final editing was wrong: they cut out a lot of scenes that were filmed and were interesting. The way the proposal part is presented is too rushed, very circumstantial; and of all the emotions she could have shown, Mia Masikowska picked anger as the main one... or at least that's why I interpret from that disdainful look she gives Mr. Rochester every two seconds.

What do you think? Which one is your personal favorite?


  1. ¡Hola Clara!
    No sabía que había tantas versiones de esta novela, mi preferida en mi adolescencia, la leí varias veces, y releí hasta el infinito los pasajes que más me gustaban. Sólo he visto completa la versión de Orson Welles y Joan Fontaine, que por otra parte son las caras que siempre asocio a la novela, la edición que yo tenía traía fotos de esa película. No hace mucho pusieron la mini serie de la BBC pero no pude verla completa, espero poder hacerlo más adelante.

  2. Lola! Sí la verdad que los libros de las Bronte y Jane Austen se han llevado al cine y tv miles y miles de veces :) Jane Eyre específicamente tiene decenas de versiones, no las puse todas. Te recomiendo muchísimo la de la BBC, es genial y la puedes descargar acá:

    Muchas gracias por visitarme y comentar :) Saludos!!

  3. What a great idea for a post! I've held off seeing the new Jane Eyre until I read the book (yes, I've never read it!)

  4. I haven't seen all the versions of Jane Eyre done on film. I did see the 1996 version, I think, and Rodchester's first wife was creepy imo. I also really liked the book when I read it. I should pull that out again.

    And I know I haven't told you this, but I enjoy reading your blog. :)

  5. Clara, really fascinating look at a favorite movie scene of mine. There have been good ones, but I do have to say that the Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine scene is my very favorite. Perhaps not close to the book, very dramatic of course, but it suits my nature! So romantic, haunting, and Bernard Herrmann's music is just fabulous. Wish somebody would propose to ME like that!

  6. I've only seen the 1943 and 2011 adaptations. I loved the book (I need to read it again!), liked the '43 adaptation, and loved the 2011 adaptation. I've heard so many good things about the 2007 mini series- that's coming up on my Netflix list soon. :)

  7. I haven't seen every adaption but Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books. Out of all the adaptions I've seen the 2007 one is my favorite!

  8. Audrey!!! You should read it, it's one of my favorites. The new movie was good but not awesome like the BBC version :)

    If you want to give it a try, you can download the four episodes here:

  9. LOL, well, Rochester's wife was creepy in all the versions, she was nuts and was really violent. Yeah, the book is awesome, one of my favorites. Oh, and THANK YOU so much, I'm glad you enjoy reading my blog :)

  10. Nice to hear there are fans of the Welles' version :) I didn't like it very much, but the casting and the music was great. Thanks for visiting my blog, Becky!

  11. Oh, please watch the mini series, it's perfect.

    In case you want to download the episodes (the blog is in Spanish, but the episodes are in English):

    Thanks for visiting :)

  12. YAY, Sasha, that's great, I agree with you of course :) Thanks for stopping by my site ;)



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