For those who do not know the story, Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre’s love interest) has an insane wife he keeps locked away in a tower so she isn’t carted away to an insane asylum. He tries to marry Jane Eyre without telling her about his little secret, and when his wife’s brother steps in and confronts him, disaster ensues.
In both versions, Mr. Rochester recounts the story of how he was tricked into marrying a beautiful temptress who gradually went insane, to his everlasting horror. In the movie version, he does it in about twenty seconds, if that. The BBC version shows us this story using flashbacks.
The makers of the miniseries, unlike the makers of the movie, seem to have grasped the oh-so-surprising concept that film is a visual medium. Apparently someone forgot to tell the 2011 versions’ director that in a movie, it’s a good idea to show things rather than just have your characters talk about them. Not to say that this scene couldn’t have worked with just the narration, but you’d need a darn good actor to pull it off, and, I’m sad to say, Michael Fassbender just wasn’t up to the task. His brusque, perfunctory, wooden acting in this scene is just another reason the old Jane Eyre is superior.
Mr. Rochetser’s wife is a really important part of the story. Rochester is torn between his duty to her and his desperate desire for companionship and love, things she cannot give him. This conflict makes Mr. Rochester a very complex and interesting character. That’s why I really can’t understand why in the new version of Jane Eyre they downplayed her role so much. Truth be told, she was probably on-screen for less than a minute. She didn’t attack Jane Eyre like she did in the 2006 version. Honestly, she didn’t give any indication she was crazy at all. She just stood there awkwardly, hugging Mr. Rochester, as though she’d forgotten why she was in the movie in the first place.
Near the end of the BBC production, Mr. Rochester’s wife, driven by jealousy and madness, actually ends up burning down his castle (and thus blinding him) before leaping from the parapets to her death as he begs her to come back to him. What a powerful scene. So full of emotion and visual grandeur.
(starts around 4:40)
Guess what they decided to do with that scene in the new movie? Yep. You got it. Judi Dench tells us the story while she and the girl from Alice and Wonderland stand around in the burned out ruins which I like to imagine are symbolic of the way the new film ruined Jane Eyre.