Saturday, May 17, 2008

Film Review: Jane Eyre

My first exposure to the 1983 version of “Jane Eyre” starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke was over 10 years ago when I happened to tune in on an installment of it on my local PBS station. Even though I had tuned in mid-story, it was apparent that I had stumbled upon a treasure. When it was released on VHS, I immediately added a copy of it to my video collection, and when I learned that it was about to be released on DVD, I was thrilled that this masterwork would be available in DVD format. If you have enjoyed any of the many filmed versions of “Jane Eyre,” do not hesitate to add this one to your rental queue, because it is inarguably the best of the lot. The performances in this version capture the complexities and nuances of these complicated characters at a level that transcends simple acting technique; Dalton and Clarke ARE Rochester and Jane. Actor Timothy Dalton can claim the distinction of having played both of the Bronte sisters’ classic male leads (Edward Rochester in “Jane Eyre” and Heathcliff in 1970’s “Wuthering Heights,”) and his multi-layered, complex interpretation of Rochester is both haunting and mesmerizing. Stage actress Zelah Clark provides the pluck and fortitude that embody the title character. It is the sparkling chemistry between the two actors that elevates this “Jane Eyre” above other versions that also feature noteworthy actors. (Other film versions pair Orson Welles/ Joan Fontaine, Ciaran Hinds/Samantha Morton, William Hurt/Charlotte Gainsbourg, and George C. Scott/Susannah York). This longer (330 minutes) version is faithful to the book; the well-crafted dialogue is preserved and the story is allowed to progress at the rate necessary for development of the passionate romance that forms the heart of the story. If you are a Charlotte Bronte fan who has been disappointed by other attempts to bring “Jane Eyre” to the screen, you should enjoy this exquisite interpretation

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