Jane Eyre: 2006 VS 2011

I've seen four adaptations of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre so far, and while all of them have had at least one good element, the two that actually vie for the honor of My Favored One are the 2006 miniseries with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens and the 2011 movie with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.

Every time I watch these two, I try to figure out which Jane/Rochester pairing is my favorite; and every time, I come to the conclusion that I can't decide.  So, naturally, I've decided to further this exercise in futility by hashing out my feelings here on the blog. :-P  It's pretty disorganized and patchy, but so be it.  Basically, I just wanted to vent a little, and that's what I've done. ;)

(And please bear with me:  This is practically the only Gothic romance story I like and allow myself to get all caught up in every now and then, so there may be gushing ahead since this story has kind of been "on the brain" recently.  Don't worry, my appreciation for the story will subside back to its normal, non-frantic pitch soon. ;))

(Also, spoilers.  Naturally.)

✾ ~ ✾ ~ ✾ ~ ✾

Over the last couple of months, I re-watched both for the who-knows-what time, and I think I've finally figured out my opinion:  The 2006 one has the advantage over the 2011 because it's longer and thus can include more developmental scenes, so you get to see more of the dynamic between Jane and Rochester.  And since both Wilson and Stephens are excellent, both individually and as a couple, you get more attached to their portrayal of the lovers.  

However, the 2011 is the one I would probably initially recommend to newcomers to the story.  Taking into account its limitations as a feature-length film, it does admirably.  And there's something about Michael and Mia as Jane and Rochester that's simply haunting.  I love both pairings very much, and there are parts that belong more to Ruth and Toby, but there are also parts that belong to Michael and Mia.

So, in a nutshell:  Neither of them is my favorite, per se.

(Well, that is . . . the 2006 might edge the 2011 out, but that's primarily on merits that I feel the 2011 would be perfectly capable of possessing should it have been longer.  And I'd rather not do without either of them, because both of them have things I prefer over the other.)

Clear as mud?  Good.  Let's unpack that, probably unnecessarily. :-P

The 2006 miniseries really plays up the creepy elements of the story.  In fact, there's so much foreshadowing about Bertha that I feel like it's a little ineffective.  It's scarier than other adaptations I've seen, but there's also less mystery to it.  (There are also flashbacks to Rochester's past and his relationships with Adele's mother and Bertha, so there are some inappropriate--though brief and portrayed as negative--moments.)

Somehow, though, it's also (overall) lighter in tone than other adaptations I've seen.  At times there's even breeziness.  This I like.

The 2011 movie is the more severe of the two, effectively streamlining the story into its two-hour runtime and focusing on telling the romance in a taut and practically austere manner.  Fassbender and Wasikowska are almost icy at times, especially when compared to Stephens' and Wilson's impassioned performances, but I actually really like that adaptational technique.  To me, one of the defining characteristics of Jane Eyre herself has always been her adamantine moral backbone, so this portrayal where her emotions and Rochester's emotions are always relatively quiet--even when they're intense and deep-running--works well for me.

And I think Michael and Mia themselves are so well-paired together.  They both seem, as actors, to have the capability of expressing that sense of quiet passion, and they can both do so much with their faces in such a subtle, barely noticeable way (especially Michael).

And then for all that severity--and despite the limited timeframe--we do get brief, blissful glimpses of their happy, playful selves, and it's awesome.

All that's not to say, though, that I don't also love Ruth and Toby as the couple.  Obviously.

Ruth Wilson's Jane is both serene and emotional--a difficult balancing act to pull off, but one which she does very winningly.  Her Jane is quicker to "get worked up" about something than Mia Wasikowska's, but it works well.  I like how the makers portray how Jane begins to have an influence over Rochester--not in a manipulative or controlling way, but in a quiet, unique, beneficial way.

In my personal opinion, Toby Stephens evokes the full spectrum of Rochester's character: His moodiness, his sudden bursts of playfulness, his desperate need to escape the blackness of his reality, his guilt-wracked love for Jane.

(He's pretty good, is what I'm trying to say.)

Again, probably the best thing about these two is that there's simply more of them.  There are more scenes that develop them as a couple, and definitely more that develop them happily.

For instance, the scene when Jane approaches Rochester about her leave of absence and finding a new position ("Give me back nine. . . . Jane!  I have need of it.").

And--especially--the very end.  In this version, we actually get to see more of their reunion and see what happens after that lovely line in the book: "Reader, I married him."  And really, those three scenes are so precious and adorable and therapeutic after all the trauma of the rest of the story that the inclusion of them is virtually a tiebreaker.

Squealing break:  (Like, seriously, their banter in the last few scenes.  Jane's teasing and grins and then Rochester's huffy outbursts:  "You, heiress."  *covers face with hands*)  It's really very cute.

Although, considering the focus and tone of the 2011 film, I don't complain about the ending to that one, either--the simplicity of the last sound of the film being Rochester's soul-felt exhale as he holds her is, I think, actually an excellent touch.  It conveys what viewers need to know: torment has given way to healing.

For the non-sappy elements: I like both Mrs. Fairfaxes, and both Adeles are adequate (though neither is outstandingly memorable).  I like St. John Rivers much more in the 2006.  That version sufficiently explores his problems with stoicism/asceticism while still making it clear that he actually does have feeling in him.  (The 2011 focuses too much on his rigidity and not on his humanity, I think, and he comes across as too stern and unlikable.)  Both Berthas are good. *shudders*  

Look at the poor babies. <3

The story structure of each is interesting.  The 2011 is told primarily in flashbacks, which usually isn't my favorite but which works well in this particular instance.  The 2006 is told almost completely chronologically, but then after The Big Reveal it jumps right to Jane on the moors and only shows us Jane's and Rochester's discussion and Jane's flight after she's been taken in by the Rivers family.  It's honestly a little jarring and choppy, though I understand that it Heightens The Drama and all that.  

Oh, and speaking of The Big Reveal . . . let's talk about the aftermath of that, shall we? 

It's one of my favorite 2011 scenes.  Fassbender is at his best, tearing into the tortured heart of the character and his quandary in all his flaws and virtues; and Wasikowska's Jane is unyielding but sympathetic.  It's all far closer to how book-Jane would have conducted herself after finding out than the 2006 interpretation is.  "But on this point, it will be as well to be silent."

('Cause, like, really.  Satisfying on a romantic level and all, but still.  Not The Way To Behave.)

Finally, to close on a happy note, A Word About The Proposal Scene. 

Both versions are good--I especially like how the 2011 is filmed, with all the beautiful late afternoon light and the rustling leaves and everything--but the 2006 one is far more passionate (broken record alert), so it's arguably a little more moving. ;)

*sigh*  FEELINGS.  (Ruth Wilson is kind of precious.)

✾ ~ ✾ ~ ✾ ~ ✾

Anyway.  At some point, I might like to do more of a character study of Jane and Rochester themselves, but for now I think this post is quite long enough and will take the edge off my current JE phase. :-P

Basically:  These are both very good movies.  Highly recommended if you need a touch of Dramatic Spice in your period films viewing. ;)


  1. I went through a period a few years ago when I watched I think five or six adaptations and took notes on them all. However, my notes were messy, and I got burned out. Maybe on my next re-read, I can mark all the significant places (better than I did or with Excel or something) and rewatch the movies and notice those. Unfortunately, I think I pitched my notes, not that they were lucid. Anyway, I didn't get to the Timothy Dalton one which is mentioned as important, so I need to see that one as well.

    All this to say, I have imperfect comparisons and rather more impressions since it's been so long. The movie with the most accurate to the book Jane in my opinion was the 1996 one with Charlotte Gainsbourg. However, Mr. Rochester was AWFUL. I think that was my main takeaway from the films. Some would get one character or scene or feeling perfect and others indifferently or terribly. Then another film would have a different mix. I know I had a huge crush on the Toby Stephens' Rochester, I preferred him to any other Rochester, but that had to do with his performance and himself rather than his accuracy. Also, that version's passion tended to um, the lustful which was both uncomfortable to watch and inaccurate (in the portrayal, not necessarily in fact, one of the reasons I can't love the book is how lustful Rochester seems, it's creepy, especially under the circumstances). I do think that the length was the best, Jane Eyre really needs to be long to have the full scope. I also think that filmmakers underrate the significance of St. John extremely. He was a foil to Rochester, I think, and not only do I feel that I thought none of the films got him right (I think he was cut out of maybe one or two I saw) and all cut down his part greatly.

    For all that I don't love JE, I sure to seem to like to analyze and discuss it.

    1. That sounds like a good plan. I'm actually rereading the book right now, so it's interesting to see how that's influencing my thoughts. So far, I've been picturing Ruth Wilson as Jane, and Timothy Dalton or Michael Fassbender as Rochester. (The Timothy Dalton one is quite good.)

      I haven't seen the Charlotte Gainsbourg one yet, but I want to. Ahhh, I know! It's like none of them can get everything quite right yet. I guess that's fair, though--you can't necessarily hit all the marks in every adaptation.

      Hehe, yeahhhhh . . . definitely some steamier stuff in the 2006 than is consistent with book-Jane's actual character. Yes! The length is quite good in the 2006. Ooh, I like that idea of St. John being a foil to Rochester. I'll have to ponder on how that's played out. I do like the 2006 portrayal of him, but he does seem to potentially be pretty tricky to execute well.

      Analyzing's just fun!!

  2. 2006 every time!!! Like you said I think it just captures the playfulness with Jane and Rochester and you can really see why they fall for each other. And they have so much chemistry! The new one is a bit intense for me. I love St John in the 2006 one too, the actor makes the stuff with him and Rosamund so heartbreaking :(

    1. I do love the playfulness the 2006 brings out! The actors have great chemistry, you're right. That's an interesting take on the 2011. It's almost like the 2006 one is more intense, for me, somehow?? It's just interesting how different adaptations strike different people. Ahhhh, yes! :( Poor St. John. He's prey to such a sad delusion. I also like how they actually give the actress for Rosamund a little bit of screen time, since that enhances it also.

  3. The 2006 version is by far my favorite. My one major complaint is Adele. I feel the actress is too old for the part, which makes her look silly. And I adore St. John's sisters. In their very brief roles, they show humor and personality. Honestly, Wilson and Stephens best capture my concept of Jane and Rochester.

    1. Yeah, I didn't like the 2006 Adele very much either (though she did grow on me a little). :-/ She does look pretty old for ten, you're right.

      Aw, yes! I think the 2011 Rivers sisters made more of an impression on me, but I agree that the 2006 ones possibly bring out more personality.

      They're really, really good. <3

  4. My favorite is the 2006 one for many reasons -- firstly, it's the only Rochester I've seen where I understood Jane's temptation to stay with him. I liked that Tobey played him as brutally direct but also flirtatious and playful; giving him a dark sense of humor and the ability to laugh at her insults really endeared his Edward to me. I also liked the sexual tension between them -- I felt it really showed how HARD it was for Jane to leave him. It moves me, emotionally, way more than all the other adaptations, although I do enjoy the newer one too when I don't have as many hours to spend with them. :)

    1. It is really good to see Rochester laugh in the 2006 one. :) Hmm, that's a good point. I hadn't thought of it that way before. I still don't think book-Jane would have consented to a make-out session on her bed after finding out, but I also feel more of the pain and difficulty of Jane having to leave him in the 2006 one, like you said. This last time around, that really hit me--just how hard it would be to be separated from the most important person in your life forever (for all you know).

      But yes, the 2011 one is also a great one to watch now and then. :)

    2. No, indeed the make-out session was a very modern thing -- but I wasn't as appalled by it as some people were, because I felt it visually represented Jane's intense internal struggle about whether to stay or leave him. She ultimately chose her virtue and sense of self respect, but a modern audience wouldn't really "get" how hard it was for her to leave without seeing it, ya know?

    3. That's a good take on it, thinking of it as more of a visual representation of her dilemma. Especially when adapting it for a modern audience, as you said.

    4. I know I'm a little late to this discussion, and I'm hoping that my comment will still be seen, but I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Charity's take on the 2006 "leaving scene". Religious Victorian readers would instantly understand why Jane would run away from Rochester, not allowing herself to be overwhelmed by temptation. But today’s less religious TV audience may not understand so easily. They may conclude that Jane is cold and even that she doesn't truly love Rochester. Of course, in the book we have Jane’s thoughts to read. Not so on film. So Sandy Welch uses dramatic licence to visually demonstrate to a contemporary audience the terrible dilemma that Jane faces. By doing this, she reinforces the depth and passion of Jane's love for Rochester, the enormous sacrifice she ultimately makes (with chastity intact) and the strength of character it takes to carry that through.
      Is the leaving scene gratuitously sensual? I would say NO. In fact, Bronte herself gives permission for such sensuality. Note that the leaving scene is not placed chronologically in the adaptation. Instead, it takes the form of two flashbacks while Jane is in Morton, the first when she is lying on her bed in Moor House. We're inside Jane's head, seeing the past as she remembers it while she is going through emotional trauma. Her memories are selective and subjective. Watch this scene, and then read this part from Chapter 32:

      " ...I used to rush into strange dreams at night: dreams many coloured, agitated, full of the ideal, the stirring, the stormy - dreams where, amidst unusual scenes, charged with adventure, with agitating risk and romantic chance, I still and again met Mr Rochester, always at some exciting crisis; and then the sense of being in his arms, hearing his voice, meeting his eye, touching his hand and cheek, loving him, being loved by him - the hope of passing a lifetime at his side, would be renewed with all its first force and fire. Then I awoke. Then I recalled where I was and how situated. Then I rose up on my curtain-less bed, trembling and quivering; and then the still dark night witnessed the convulsion of despair, and heard the burst of passion."

      Now, returning to 2006, this last part - where Jane convulses with despair on her bed - is what we see after the first flashback. Different time and place perhaps, but the essence of what Bronte wrote - the sensuality, arousal and despair - is all there. Such a clever fusion of the two segments of the book. And, by arranging these flashback recollections while Jane is in Morton, we have this wonderfully opportune juxtaposition of a passionate Rochester and an icy St John. The contrast between the two men couldn't be more marked.

    5. That's no problem; comments on old posts are always great. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

      Wow, it's fascinating to hear your and Charity's insights on the directorial choice to include this scene! In light of that part from the book, I think the scene could definitely have worked well as a daydream or fantasy, but I'd have preferred the line between what Jane actually would have done and what Jane would have dreamed of doing to be slightly clearer. Especially since the adaptations have successfully been able to do that in other areas.

      Of course, that's just my personal opinion and I definitely understand the probable thought process behind including that scene a lot better after hearing y'all's thoughts. :)

  5. I've only seen the Mia Washiokva/Michael Fassbender one and haven't seen the Toby Stephens one yet (each time I see him I see Captain Filnt fron Black Sails) and I liked that movie but I might need to look at the Toby one when I get done reading Jane Eyre (yep, I haven't read it yet)

    1. I love them both a lot! I'd definitely recommend trying the Toby Stephens one. :) (Ooh, what's Black Sails?) And have fun reading it, whenever you do! ;)

  6. LOVE this! You know I adore the 2006 version with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. Imo, one of the best modern film adaptations of a classic of our time. And although I haven't seen the 2011 one, I would say based on your description that I definitely want to see it, but I doubt I'll love it AS MUCH as the 2006 miniseries.

    Just curious what you thought re Jane's conduct was "Not the Way to Behave" in the 2006 one? I mean I guess maybe she wasn't perfect but I feel like she still did a really good job considering all she was processing at the time in sticking by her morals to the best of her ability, and I like that they show her human struggle with that.

    I WOULD, of course, be interested in seeing a sterner St. John, since you can probably my guess my views as to his character and wisdom (or lack thereof), lol ;)

    I also kind of like the fact that Adele isn't overpoweringly memorable too because she wasn't in the book.

    Love this post! Except now I want to go watch the entire 2006 miniseries again <3

    1. :D :D Oh, you haven't seen the 2011 one?? Huh. I didn't know that. :) Yeah, I'd definitely recommend it! But I agree, you probably won't love it like you do the 2006. ;) But who knows?

      Well, by that I meant that it seems really unrealistic to me that Jane would be kissing/cuddling (let alone on her bed) after finding out that he's married. But, that aside, as you said, she's kind of dealing with more than a little. ;-P

      Haha! And, really, it's only closer to the end that he seems too stern. In the beginning he's okay. :)

      Huh, good point. Hadn't thought of it that way. I think I do like the 2011 Adele better, though.

      Awwww, thanks!! It was fun getting all your thoughts on it. :) Haha, I know! It's so funny: writing this post HAD "taken the edge off" my Jane Eyre phase, but then I reread the book. And then I watched an adaptation of an Anne Bronte book, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, that also starred Toby Stephens. Aaaaand then I selected scenes from the Timothy Dalton Jane Eyre. And then I re-watched some of the 2011 one. So now I'm still in the Bronte phase. :-P

  7. Super late comment, no surprise. :P haha

    But OOH I love both of these versions too, though I haven't seen the 2006 in forever and now methinks I need to have a Jane Eyre "marathon" with my mummy.

    This was a great comparison of the two, and I'm inclined to agree with all your impressions, as far as I can remember my own impressions of both. ;)

    1. Haha! No worries ;D

      Ooh, yes, I'd agree. Jane Eyre marathons are fun. :D

  8. I totally love the 2006 version. And I will admit, I just watched it for the first time this year. I've seen the 1996, 1983, and 2011 version. But instantly became obsessed with this version. Toby is adorable!!
    But I laugh at the folks who complain about the "make out" scene. And they say "Well after Jane finds out Rochester is married, she refuses to kiss or embrace him"... which is true to a point. Did anyone read chapter 27? After he carries her downstairs, tells her about Bertha and his past mistresses. When she tells him, that she must leave him? Here is a copy of it..

    Jane you understand what I want of you? Just this promise--'I
    will be yours, Mr. Rochester.'"

    "Mr. Rochester, I will NOT be yours."

    Another long silence.

    "Jane!" recommenced he, with a gentleness that broke me down with
    grief, and turned me stone-cold with ominous terror--for this still
    voice was the pant of a lion rising--"Jane, do you mean to go one
    way in the world, and to let me go another?"

    "I do."

    "Jane" (bending towards and embracing me), "do you mean it now?"

    "I do."

    "And now?" softly kissing my forehead and cheek.

    "I do," extricating myself from restraint rapidly and completely.

    "Oh, Jane, this is bitter! This--this is wicked. It would not be
    wicked to love me."

    "It would to obey you.

    *So no it wasn't a make out scene, but he did embrace her, kissed her on her forehead and cheek, to try to tempt her to stay with him.
    So I have no objection to that scene what so ever.
    I actually just ordered this miniseries as an early Christmas gift. I downloaded this on Google Play and realized that 48 minutes were cut from the PBS version. So for $80 🙄.. I will own the full "Master Piece Theatre version"..

    1. The difference is, as you said, Jane refuses to kiss or embrace him in the book and extricates herself from his overtures. During the "makeout scene" in the 2006, she's not protesting or trying to get away from him kissing or embracing her. So it's kind of valid that people are a little upset at the movie inserting a scene that goes against everything Jane stands for in the book. :/ Just my two cents. :)

    2. It's a stellar version! I'm glad you found one you love. :D

      I do have to agree with Natalie, though: my problem with that scene is simply that I still find it blatantly inconsistent with book-Jane's character. I'm not denying that Rochester would have tried to kiss/cuddle/whatever, because, as that chapter points out, he obviously would/did. But Jane would not have consented to it; whereas, in that particular scene in the 2006, she seems like a fairly active participant. The embraces were (or at least seemed to be) mutual. That's where I take issue with it from an accuracy standpoint.

      Yikes, they charge $80 for it??! Highway robbery. I have noticed that, though -- a lot of British period dramas tend to be much more expensive. Don't know what that's about. Anyway, glad you've got it now! :D

    3. Olivia, did you see my comment dated Oct 3rd 2019 (as Unknown)? It addresses your complaints about this scene. I'd be very glad to hear your views on my take on things. :D

    4. Hi, Janet! Yes, I did see your comment (thanks for it, btw!), and I actually already responded to it (it's dates October 6, right beneath yours in that thread). Maybe the comment subscription didn't work?

      Anyway, my thoughts boil down to thinking that that could be a great nod to the book (given that passage, which I'd forgotten), BUT, at the risk of sounding stubborn, I do have to say that I think it would have been better to clearly convey the fact that that was a daydream rather than an actual encounter. Because, yet again, the line between what Jane wishes she could do and what Jane actually would do is still pretty firmly drawn in the book. ;)

      All this being said, I don't have a HUGE problem with the fact that the 2006 has this scene. I don't think it makes it a lesser adaptation. It's just one (relatively small) instance of a creative choice with which I personally disagree based on my interpretation of the original character. :) Regardless, it's been really interesting to hear everyone's thoughts.

    5. I meant to address my previous comment to Natalie. Sorry!

    6. Hey Janet! So sorry this is such a late response!

      So I haven't seen the 2006 version in quite some time (something I'm hoping to remedy soon) so my opinion is only based on what I remember/have heard.

      I read your October 3rd comment and I definitely think you share some great points! The idea of connecting with a modern audience makes sense; however, I personally am not a fan when movie makers take that much liberty with the storyline and characters of an author's book. I mean, I feel as if it's the humanity of the characters that audiences can and should relate to, no matter what era they are from, not their "modernized choices/actions". I feel as if audiences can relate to the emotional turmoil Jane felt without the addition of a sensually charged scene that never actually occurred in the book. But, if the scene fit within Jane's character, I would have less of a problem with it. It's only that making out with Rochester is so against the character of Jane Eyre and everything she stands for in the book. I feel that it waters down the strong, steadfast courage and moral fiber that we see in her in the book.

      Anyways, that's just me. :) Thanks for the great conversation! I love discussing book characters! :D


Post a Comment

Comments make my day. Seriously. I'd be so happy if you commented. :)

I've gotten really bad about replying in a timely manner, but it's always my intention to do so eventually. (Even though it doesn't always happen. ;))

Popular posts from this blog

My take on the Elsie Dinsmore series.

Romeo and Juliet (2013) {review}

Christian Purity: Things That (Apparently) Need to Be Said