Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Top 10 Jane Eyre "Reunion Scenes"

Edit May 16, 2018: For updated and added reviews and content, visit my new website Lit Lovers & Corset Laces

I believe I ought to begin this post by apologizing for what seems to me to be neglect. I haven't posted since last week as I've been drowned with homework during the approaching end of the school quarter. There hasn't been a night that I haven't been up past midnight writing essays for European History or outlining the chapter for my US History class. Now with the weekend under way I feel as if I'm once again able to return to you rejuvenated and ready to write. Therefore, the Jane Eyre rankings will continue with the beloved "Reunion Scene".

The reunion scene is the hardest to rank or grade because it is interpreted with such variance depending on the movie. I'd like to say that the "Reunion Scene" encompasses Jane's return as well as Rochester's following second proposal, but (as many of you well know) a few adaptations don't include Rochester's second proposal. This created a bit of a challenge for me. Should I look at the reunion scene as I always have, or should I allow those few films without a definite proposal equal footing? It was a hard decision to make. Either I'd have to interpret the "reunion scene" as the reunion only and not credit the films with a second proposal for being truly faithful to the novel or I'd have to include the second proposal which would give the films without it a seriously bad grade.

In the end I opted for the first option. Therefore, the rankings of the reunion scene will be based on the reunion alone. The reason for arriving to this decision is really simple, actually. Of the ten popular Jane Eyre adaptations, seven of them don't include the second proposal. It's quite baffling really, but it makes perfect sense. The only adaptations that have the second proposal are all four-hour TV adaptations courtesy of BBC (the 1973, 1983, and 2006). After coming to that realization it seemed a lot easier for me to take the reunion scene literally and focus on the actual reunion.

As usual, comments are always welcome. I have a feeling that this post is going to be a bit more debatable because many of you will probably end up viewing the reunion scene as I normally view it: reunion and second proposal combined. I entreat you, however, to narrow your gaze and judge it a bit differently.

#10: Jane Eyre 1934

There are tears of laughter flooding my cheeks right now. I must have had to type that previous sentence five different times because I'm laughing so hard. There's really nothing to say. This was ridiculously horrible and outrageously funny. "I've brought your tea Edward!" Goodness, I wish I could give it a G instead of an F! Maybe an "F minus minus" will do.
Grade: F- - 

#9: Jane Eyre 1949

It peaked at number eight in the "leaving scene" rankings, but it's back where it began. The era still wasn't advanced enough to utilize make-up scars or eye discolorations so they used the good old "Rochester staring into space" technique. This reunion was also rather laughable, but still slightly touching in the cheesiest of ways. It even used a half a quote from the book. Of course, that won't save it from being an "F". I'm so glad that Charlton Heston eventually matured into a convincing and talented actor, but I'm even happier that this particular role remained rooted in obscurity. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have wanted too many people to see it.
Grade: F

#8: Jane Eyre 1996

I'm aware that I might appear too harsh on this version, but I can't help the way I see it. It didn't deliver in any of the other pivotal scenes and the overall tone of the film didn't change a bit here. William Hurt is just too "blah" to be Rochester. His healthy take on the character was already sleepy, but now that Rochester is blind he might as well be dead. There's no life in Hurt's performance, only the same languidness we saw throughout the length of the movie. He does not seem as if he's at all surprised, happy, or even emotional about having Jane back in his arms again. Then again, with Charlotte Gainsbourg turning in a sad last scene like that, it's hard to really cultivate anything on your own. It deserves an "F" but I'll add a plus to that just because I feel sorry.
Grade: F+

#7: Jane Eyre 1944

It took a big drop from previous rankings, obviously. It just wasn't right. Not to say that the breakneck kiss supported by the passionate sounding of trumpets wasn't enjoyable, because it was actually pretty nice. There was just so much missing. The lack of dialogue wasn't really the problem, but rather the lack of faithfulness. Actually, I can't even put a finger on what was really wrong with this scene, but something about it just was. There weren't a lot of lines to begin with, but the lines that were present weren't taken from the novel. The whole ruined Thornfield thing didn't really bother me either. I  guess the real reason why this version dropped was because, on the whole, the reunion scene actually makes for a competitive ranking and a lot of the scenes from other films were just better. 
Grade: D+

#6: Jane Eyre 1973

This adaptation was once again ranked in the bottom half (though slightly higher than last time) because it was just weird. Jayston seemed so eccentric and...WEIRD! My friend even commented that it seemed like he was on some kind of psychedelic drug (her words, not mine). Really? I was expecting more. This version wasn't actually that bad. In fact, it was faithful and pretty solid. It just didn't work in these last few minutes. I felt no chemistry between the two leads. There was a horrible sense of nothingness. Yet, there were seconds of beauty intermingled with the overall state of strangeness. That moment after Sorcha's eyebrows have once again gone to the roof of her head as she wonders if she's "playing the fool", she withdraws herself from him and in a state of slight panic Michael cries, "No, don't leave me!" It was enough to coax a little "aww" from my mouth and even provoke a slight smile. Those few seconds of need were priceless in a scene that otherwise fell flat. 
Grade: C-

#5: Jane Eyre 1997 

In retrospect, this is the highest the 1997 has ever made it in any of my rankings. I guess I'm just a sucker for tears, especially when it comes from men. The whole idea of a strong and masculine figure such as Rochester leaking at the eyes is irresistible to me. That being said, however, the first part of this reunion scene was an utter mess. Ciaran Hinds is just intent on being cranky for most of this movie. But during those last two minutes when Samantha Morton asserts herself, takes the reigns, and says, "I will never leave your side again" he becomes a completely different person. That inflamed eye of his (props to the makeup crew there; the blindness seemed very realistic) leaks one tear and then thousands more follow until he's just sobbing in Jane's consoling embrace. Not to mention that when he says, "My heart will burst for want to see your face" my eyes filled to the brink. Now that is the need that a Rochester should feel! 
Grade: C+

#4: Jane Eyre 1970 

Utter lack of faithfulness in every aspect, and yet it never ceases to make my cry. And I'm not talking about tears that just settle on the tips of my lashes. When I say "cry" I mean there are always tears running down my cheeks after this scene. It's just wonderful. George Scott has his eyes closed throughout the whole scene (one of them has a scar on it but you can't see it until the close angle) and yet there is so much emotion! The way he inclines his head slightly when he hear's Jane's voice and how he calls her name twice is gorgeous. His every movement is cautious and gentle, as if he's afraid that she might be a mere figment of his passionate imagination. Opposite him, Susannah's performance isn't amazingly remarkable, but it is good. I'm a big believer in the idea that the reunion scene should be (on the majority) Rochester's show. Jane is supposed to be the stable one. In the novel every emotionally-charged word uttered by our main man is greeted with a practical and matter-of-fact response from Jane in order to assure him of her reality. Therefore, most of the emotional intensity really comes from Rochester though Jane does have to have an appropriate amount of warmth (better than that given by Charlotte Gainsbourg or Sorcha Cusack). 
Grade: B+

Note before we get to the top 3: Could I just call it a tie between the top three? This has to be the hardest decision I've ever had to make! I've watched each clip over and over and I just can't seem to figure out which order I want to rank the last three adaptations in. Each makes me cry. Each has its decided strengths and weaknesses. I just don't know which one is first! Forgive me if you think I did wrong, but in the end I stuck to my gut and did what I thought was best. 

#3: Jane Eyre 2011
I'm really sorry, but there isn't an available Youtube video on this particular scene in the movie. Just trust my judgment. Most of you have probably seen it anyway. 

I think that this is the lowest I've ever ranked the 2011. Dear readers, I ranked it thus only for you. If it had been up to my personal tastes alone, this leaving scene probably would have been first or second. I break down into complete sobs whenever I watch this scene. There is such gentleness; such beautiful silence that inhabits this scene. It is the simplicity that makes it so breathtaking. That small gasp issued by Rochester when Jane's hand makes contact with his, as if he has been shocked by some kind of spark! The way Mia's Jane leaks tears onto his hand as she leads it to her face! That simple "a dream" whispered by him as he takes her into his arms and she nestles her head on his chest! Of course, when Mia whispers that last line, "Awaken then." The shaking of Rochester's shoulders as he represses tears! The last contented sigh he gives, and then the realization of reality followed by the closing of his eyes. Just picturing it in my head brings tears to my eyes! This reunion scene is hands down my absolute favorite, but I ranked it third in order to please you, my faithful readers. There is a pretty unattractive beard involved that isn't true to the novel. There is no injury of the hand. In fact, there isn't even a scar to the eye. Of course, you can tell that he's blind because of the discoloration, but technically there's supposed to be a scar. It also doesn't take place inside. I personally liked that particular artistic license taken. The beauty of Rochester waiting under that ruined (and symbolic) tree under which he proposed to her physically manifests the metaphor ("I am no better than the old lightning-struck chestnut tree") presented in the novel. There's also a lack of dialogue that many Jane Eyre puritans won't receive to warmly. Oh well. Just know that in my heart, this scene is ranked first. 
Grade: A

#1: Jane Eyre 1983

I did what I thought best to do. In my mind the 1983 and 2006 are both so amazing that I really cannot choose between them. The 1983 was beautiful; perfect in every aspect. There isn't a detail left out. That moment when Timothy envelopes Zelah in his arms...priceless. Not to mention that when he says "A free woman?" with hope welling in his breast as she tells him how independent she is, I could die and go to heaven. It's exactly what's described in the book. Rochester speaks imperiously at first and begins to slowly break down into dependence as he realizes that Jane is truly there. All the while Jane is just ambling along in conversation as if she hasn't been gone at all. Zelah breaks out of her reserved shell and actually emits genuine emotion that creates a spark of chemistry between her and Timothy. He isn't pulling the weight of the adaption on his shoulders anymore. The two meshed well, acted well, and certainly pulled out something great. There is such passionate subtlety, screaming silence, peaceful agitation. Yes, there were way too many oxymorons in that last sentence, but they were all packed into this scene!
Grade: A+

#1: Jane Eyre 2006 

This was a beautiful reunion. The quickness with which Toby's Rochester jumps to find Jane's hand the minute he hears her voice just sends palpitations fluttering through my heart. Even in his state of dependence, Rochester's masculinity and quickness still shines through in everything he does. His voice is tender; cautious as if he is unsure whether he speaks with shadow or substance. But his strength (as Jane says in the novel) isn't quelled. He pulls her lovingly into his arms, presses his cheek to hers. He does everything to assure himself of her reality. And then Ruth Wilson kisses him and he cries, "You indeed torment me!"As that one tear slides perfectly down his scared cheek, my heart wells. Jane teases him, saying, "unless you prefer I go" and he clutches eagerly at her, holding her even tighter in his needing embrace. Ruth does a splendid job herself. She is practical, as Jane should be. However, she also has this motherly romantic quality to her during the scene that makes her endearing, such as when she kneels and kisses is hand, cheek, and forehead. She sits on his lap as they engage in after-dinner flirtation. Rochester is still rather restless, but we feel things returning to normal. He laughs as if he hasn't laughed in a long time, and when she announces that she has to go to bed, he seems scared. That is the Rochester I imagine. He is afraid that she might never come back if she leaves that room. And then she consoles him with a loving (and chaste kiss) and a smile returns to his lips. Even then, as she withdraws from his arms he holds her hand until he can reach it no more. This scene probably wasn't as  spot-on faithful as the 1983, but it captures the relationship between Jane and Rochester down to a science. 
Grade: A+


  1. I would put '11 further down the list, I think, and '96 higher, because I thought '96 was very tender. Nowt to do with the book, granted, but then that was the general theme of the whole movie. :]

    I was really disappointed with '11. It's too short and feels taken from the Orson Welles version - beard and all. The point of Jane's return to Rochester is that she's an independent woman who can do what she wants, and she chooses to return to the man she loves. He's 20 years older, blinded and maimed and lied to her, but she loves him. She's at liberty to do whatever she likes, but her choice is to return. There's a feminist statement in there somewhere. And that's completely lost when they do that. She just returns, they both go "I wuvs you" (in essence) and that's it. Eh? She teases him and he gets jealous and all sorts. It would have been great to see, but no, they skip it. Bah! Nah, for this, '06 has my vote. :)

  2. I understand that the '11 might get a lower grade to some. I see exactly what you're saying as far as the faithfulness to the novel, but like I mentioned only FOUR of the ten adaptations actually draw any light to the "teasing, jealous" deal and they are all BBC miniseries adaptations.

    There were a lot of elements that were influenced by the '44, but I felt like this one was executed more artistically and faithfully than the '44 by far. The little dialogue that was in the '11 scene was all lifted from the novel. Somehow I felt like I grasped a symbolic statement from it as well. The movie established a "feel" that (to me) figuratively held a feminist undertone. In the scene before she meets rochester, Jane tells Mrs. Fairfax about her desire to overpass the horizon. She wants to be "awakened". Rochester comes into the picture and stirs her previously hopeless and lifeless existence into action. Now Jane returns to him when he's wishing for the same thing and it's she who's telling him to "awaken."

    The '96 just wasn't good to me. A lot of people like it but I never felt any warmth in any of the scenes. I guess it was because people had always told me that it was amazing and when I actually watched it I was completely disappointed.

  3. Pardon me, I meant "three" of the adaptations. Ha ha writing a blog comment and working on an English essay isn't a very good mix.

  4. Great top 10!

    You're right, the reunion scene is one of the only good things about JE97. I love how Ciaran breaks down.

    The ending of JE11 is lovely, but it's not the ending like it's supposed to be. It doesn't mean that I don't love it.

    As much as I criticize JE06, the reunion scene is very moving. I'm not sure I really like the second proposal though. And why doesn't Jane seem to know that Edward is blind?

    And JE83... This reunion is flawless and I adore it as much as you, except for the moment Tim sends Zelah away. Book-Edward would never do that.

  5. I'm convinced that our thoughts are identical, Robas. The '11 isn't technically how an ending should be but it doesn't stop me from loving it nonetheless. They didn't include the man in the pasture telling Jane that Rochester was blind in the '06 so I think it surprised her in that adaptation. I completely share your feelings about that '83. I hated that moment when Timothy sent her away. I always wonder why they included that when it wasn't faithful to the novel and didn't really seem to serve a purpose.

  6. Love the JE 06 reunion. It is tender and moving. It is perfect! Ruth & Toby are brilliant as EFR & Jane Eyre!

    Kate x

  7. At first all I could think after seeing the 2011 reunion was: "that's it?!" But after watching it a second time, the simplicity and depth of emotion were absolutely perfect. Honestly, it still makes me want to cry. It beat the 2011 by far, for me. I am in awe of how much emotion they squeezed into such a small scene-everything was perfect; the music, the setting, the script, the acting. Ah!