Jane Eyre (2006) is a mini-series from the BBC. It contains four hour-length episodes. The series was directed by Susanna White. The screenplay was written by Sandy Welch. It first aired in the UK on September 24, 2006.
The BBC's Jane Eyre follows the intriguing life of Jane Eyre from her troubled time as a lonely, poor orphan at Gatehead to her difficult and vastly different adulthood. The series portrays the hardships she faces, both as a child at Lowood Institution and as a governess experiencing life on her own for the first time, as well as all of the difficulties that accompany this. This adaptation portrays Bronte's original novel's most memorable characters, from the brooding Mr. Rochester to the mysterious and frightening Bertha. Jane Eyre's intriguing and often troubling time at Thornfield Hall, and all of the secrets she discovers there, is depicted in depth in this mini-series.
While many of the novel's original themes are faithfully represented in this adaptation, some play a more prominent role than others. For example, the importance of education is a central theme in the original narrative, but Jane's time at Lowood Institution is rather quickly depicted in this mini-series. However, the themes of appearance, character, family, and mortality are complex and important aspects of this adaptation.
The concern with appearances is seen multiple times throughout this mini-series. In the beginning of Episode One, the Reed family is having their portrait painted, but young Jane is excluded. They do not want her to be depicted as part of the family. The grandiose style and over the top nature of the portrait shows the Reed's desire to present themselves in a grand manner, thus revealing their overall concern with appearance. Since this scene occurs within the first ten minutes of the series, the importance of this theme is highlighted. It sets the stage for future moments regarding appearance to develop.
Another critical scene that further showcases the theme of appearance is later in the first episode when Rochester asks Jane if she finds him attractive. She hastily tells him that she does not. He then tells her how much money he is worth (20,000 pounds!) and asks if that makes him more attractive. However, Jane replies by basically telling him that that is scientifically impossible. Jane's little concern for Rochester's physical attractiveness shows that she is not concerned with a person's outward appearance. Rather, as she goes on to tell Rochester, she believes that a person's character determines their attractiveness. The importance of Jane's view of appearance is further evident when it is later revealed through a flashback that Celine once said that Rochester's money made him "very presentable." This shows that part of Jane's goodness and character is due to the little concern she has with appearance and the importance she places on character.
The theme of character is similarly important in this adaptation in many notable ways. One of the first instances of this is in the first episode of the series when Mr. Brocklehurst cruelly (and incorrectly) tells everyone at Lowood that Jane is a liar. Jane's shame and indignation at being labeled something that she isn't is evident. This is, perhaps, the moment that character becomes so important to her. Again, this is seen later when she tells Rochester that character far outweighs appearance. Rochester echoes these sentiments when he tells Adele that without "substance", people will not like her, despite how pretty she might be.
The issue of a person's character is also key in the second episode when Rochester's guests are discussing, essentially, innate badness. John Eshton asks the Ingram women if they don't think that it's possible that a normal-seeming person on the outside is capable of evil. This once more shows the idea of looking past appearances to discern someone's true character. Lady Ingram goes on to say, "God gives people good blood and bad blood. . . ." This moment brings up the idea that a person can't change their true character. Essentially, they are discussing the idea of Nature vs. Nurture. John Eshton asks Jane if she believes that some children are just born bad. This causes her to recall the difficulty and cruelty of her own childhood. She replies that they should all be loved. Furthermore, this discussion of true character and nature relates to Bertha's situation because she could not change her true nature of insanity, and therefore deserves sympathy.
Family, or more precisely familial bonds, is another crucial aspect of this adaptation. This is first made evident when young Jane is excluded from the Reeds' family portrait. They say it is because she isn't a part of the family, despite the fact that she is actually related to them. This brings up the question of what exactly is family. Later, Jane tells her aunt that her uncle, the deceased Mr. Reed, haunts the Red Room because Mrs. Reed has not fulfilled her promise to love Jane as one of her own children. This shows the belief that the young, orphaned Jane held about the power of familial bonds. She believes that the bond she shared with her uncle because they are family could transcend even death.
The idea of the power of bonds is seen again in the fourth episode when Rochester calls out Jane's name, and she mysteriously hears it, despite being miles away. This moment shows the ability of bonds to bring people together, and to keep them together. Jane's bond with Rochester is so powerful that it can supernaturally reach her despite great distances and obstacles, much like she believed about her bond with her uncle. The importance of family is highlighted once more in the fourth episode when Jane is overjoyed to discover that the Rivers are actually her cousins. Despite only knowing them for a short while, Jane develops a bond with St. John and his sisters. The series also focuses on the growing relationship between Jane and Adele. Adele, like Jane, is being raised by a woman other than her mother. Jane is concerned with not only furthering Adele's mind academically, but she also works to teach her the importance of good character and personality. Adele is responsive to Jane's involvement in her life and becomes quite attached to her. In the second episode, Adele even says to Jane, "We're your family now." This shows Adele's happiness at finding a parent figure in Jane.
Finally, the movie ends with Jane, Rochester, and everyone else in their household, including the help, sitting for a family portrait in front of their home. This shows that family is not merely the people one is related to; it can be created. It also mirrors the beginning of the series. Now, however, no one is excluded and Jane finds happiness by finding a true family.
Mortality is yet another key theme in this mini-series. Connections between life and death are seen throughout the episodes. From the time she was a young girl, Jane's life has always involved death, including the loss of both of her parents and her uncle. This impacted Jane's ideas about life and death. For example, Jane's willingness to believe that the ghost of Mr. Reed is still "near" shows that Jane believes that there is a sort of bond ,or connection, that exists between the living and the dead. This idea is reinforced later in the first episode when Jane's friend at Lowood Institution, Helen, dies while holding Jane's hand. It is symbolic of being bonded together by friendship even in death. Furthermore, after Helen dies, Jane often sits by her grave drawing, and later teaching. These scenes show that Jane is comfortable living near death.
This mini-series is a critically acclaimed adaptation of Bronte's Jane Eyre. It was nominated for several awards in 2007-2008, including BAFTA TV Awards, awards from the Broadcasting Press Guild, Satellite Awards, Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Golden Globe Award. In 2007, the mini-series won a BAFTA TV award and three Primetime Emmy awards for Outstanding Art Direction, Outstanding Costumes, and Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Movie.
The BBC's miniseries is a successful and ultimately close adaptation of Bronte's novel. It follows the original narrative closely, with the exception of adding a few scenes specifically for this screenplay. For example, Rochester uses a Ouija board in this series. This is probably due in part to the visual oddity and excitement this addition would offer viewers. This adaptation's depiction of the Red Room is another memorable and visually striking scene. The room is not only completely red, but it also has a visibly red glow. This imagery is somewhat unique to this adaptation, as many others seem to downplay the actual redness of the room. However, the striking visualization in this version works to strengthen the underlying Gothic mood of the narrative, while enhancing the fear and panic that the young Jane feels when locked in the room. The red glow also makes Jane's whole experience in the Red Room even creepier.