I find myself at a conflicting crossroads. I have now read Jane Eyre, the novel, and seen its film counterpart. Both presented their own unique strengths and weaknesses in presentation of a particular story. Now I am torn as to whether I appreciated the novel or its film interpretation more. Certainly, I wholly recognize the hard work and craftsmanship which went into Bronte’s novel, as much as I recognize the time and effort which fueled the creation of the movie. However, I cannot determine which one I enjoyed more, whichever I found more pleasure in experiencing. The dilemma of novel or film is a timeless one, though I did not believe I would feel it for the literary work of Jane Eyre.
As I stated in my prior reaction paper for Jane Eyre, I found the book to be incredibly lengthy and rather dry at parts. The superfluous thought and documenting of insignificant events taxed me heavily during nights of reading. Yet when I watched the movie, in which I was expecting to find a pleasant streamlining of much of the Jane Eyre plot, I felt rather odd. Suddenly, I began thinking that some scenes were executed too curtly: perhaps certain dialogue was left out, or an arc was not fully developed, or an emotional scene was cut out or altered drastically. “Preposterous!” I thought to myself. “You loathed the lengthy passages of the novel!” I sneered internally.
A widely acknowledge truth is that film adaptations will never be wholly true to their literary counterparts. I did not expect this in the slightest with Jane Eyre, nor did I desire it. As stated, I looked forward to witnessing a more streamlined plot and development. I did not anticipate that I would find anything to be lacking in the film, and yet that is entirely how I felt. Of course, I will need to provide examples.
One piece of plot which was partially overlooked was Rochester’s playing host for his friends at Thornfield. While I was mostly pleased with the portrayal of the upper class and their treatment of Jane, I felt as though the apparent relationship between Rochester and Miss Ingram could have been more sincere. In the book, several events virtually seal the marriage of the pair, and thus it is all the more shocking when Rochester proposed to Jane. Although, it is possible that as I knew the outcome of events nothing could have surprised me.
The interactions between Jane and her discovered cousins at Moor House could have used a bit more development. Within the novel, a fairly strong sense of the relationship amidst the group as it develops is provided. With St. John, his piety and steadfast will are made quite evident and add much to the overall theme of Jane Eyre. Jane’s final real confrontation with St. John feels all the more heated and conflicting because of the dynamic which was created between the two in their studies, work, and living together. The film, due to its more concise nature, could show as much expansion or character interaction as was possible in the book.
Really, the only true, notable grievance I have with the film is its portrayal of the final scene between Jane and Rochester. In the novel, their ending union is arguably the most romantic passage in the book, one filled with emotion. Their entire meeting within the movie seemed rushed and a bit clumsy. I still found it to be a fairly beautiful scene, but it did not meet the par which I had established mentally. If I had to place my finger on a single factor, that factor would be build-up. Jane’s sudden happening upon Rochester contrasted with the novel’s portrayal and was slightly jarring to my mental depiction.
I quite enjoyed the film. The cinematography was well-done, and many of the shots and locations used brought a great moodiness to my heart. A wonderful aesthetic and atmosphere was captured through the adaptation, and it matched my perception through the novel rather well. Ultimately, I am unsure as to whether I enjoyed the novel or film more. Both have their own specific boons and drawback. Suffice it to say they are both reasonably well-made pieces of artistic expression.